Dark earthy green-brown and dotted with fine bluish speckles, Puy lentils are easily the most attractive lentil I've come across, but it is their remarkable ability to hold their shape when cooked and their warm, peppery flavor that makes them the king of their species. It's really a wonder that I bought a small bag about two years ago and let them languish for so long before rediscovering their delights just a short while ago.
This little salad is so very simple, but oh so delicious and refreshing on a warm day — but what else would you expect from almost anything with marinated feta cheese and roasted red pepper. If you cannot find Puy lentils, French lentils will do almost as well, but be sure not to overcook them. If you choose to roast your own peppers instead of using the jarred variety, you are in for a treat and they smell heavenly when you pull them from the oven. Just start the roasting at about the same time as the marinating — simple but fail-proof instructions can be found here.
This is my submission to No Croutons Required, a vegetarian soup and salad event alternately hosted by Holler of Tinned Tomatoes and myself. The theme this month is beans and pulses. You have until the 20th of June to get your entries in.
Puy Lentil, Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Salad
12 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
6 tablespoons olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 cup Puy or French lentils
1 hot green chili
1 large onion, quartered lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 roasted sweet red bell pepper, cut into small strips
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, torn
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper
Toss the feta cheese with the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and dried mint. Leave to marinate at room temperature for one hour, giving the cheese an extra toss now and then.
Meanwhile, rinse the lentils under cold running water and place them in a medium saucepan covered with several inches of cold water. Cut a slit down the side of the hot green chili and add it to the water along with the onion and garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer until the lentils are tender but firm, about 25 minutes. Drain and remove the chili and garlic. Set aside to cool.
Once the lentils are room temperature, season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Stir in the marinated feta, including the marinating oil, and the roasted red pepper.
Garnish with the fresh mint leaves and serve. Serves 4.