Lentils are one of the world’s earliest-cultivated and most popular foods. They come in a rainbow of colours – green, brown, black, yellow and orange to name a few – and are grown in a wide variety of places. Because they are such a rich source of protein, amino acids, and dietary fibre, lentils are valued for their contribution to a healthy diet.
Le Puy lentils (sometimes also listed as “du Puy” on menus) are highly valued for their distinctive flavour and resilient texture when cooked. Unlike the lentils used to make Indian daal, these lentils will not disintegrate when properly cooked.
Lentils from Le Puy-en-Velay are an AOC-protected product and only ones grown in that commune of France under strict quality standards are allowed to use “puy” in their name. Wine is the most famous example of another AOC-protected product, but the full list includes honey from Corsica, Nicoise olives from Provence, and poultry from Bresse. The system of geographic designations for foodstuffs has expanded beyond national borders and the EU has created a scheme called Protected Designation of Origin with many of the same goals and a Europe-wide scale.
Lentils and pork have a long-standing friendship and bacon especially, with its subtle smokiness gives life to the usually fairly drab-tasting lentil. In return, lentils extend the wonderful flavour of pork fat without diluting it. As is, this salad makes for an excellent light meal in warm weather. When days get shorter and the air starts to chill, it could serve as an excellent base for smoked pork chops or grilled sausages.
Despite the pork-lentil alliance, I can see a vegetarian version of this salad working by omitting the bacon and adding feta cheese and garlic oil for some richness. Alternatively, a teaspoon of smoked paprika in the dressing will add smokiness and a Spanish flair. To increase the de rigueur healthiness even more, substitute sweet potatoes for the new potatoes.
This salad can be prepared ahead of time, but, as is usually the case, it’s best to hold off on adding salt and dressing until just before serving.
- Sweet potatoes
- David's smoked paprika
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Put the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil on high heat and then reduce to medium-low and cook uncovered until tender, approximately 20 minutes.
- Sauté the bacon over medium heat. Cook until barely crisps. Drain the bacon and reserve the fat.
- Sauté the red pepper and red onion in the same pan until soft.
- Cook the potatoes in the boiling water until just tender. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon.
- Cook the Swiss chard in the boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes or until barely wilted. Drain.
- For the dressing, combine the reserved bacon fat and enough grapeseed oil to make 1/3 of cup.
- Whisk in the red wine vinegar, grainy Dijon mustard, honey, grated nutmeg, and a large pinch of sea salt flakes.
- Combine the cooked potatoes, Swiss chard, and lentils. Add another pinch of sea salt, half the dressing, and toss.
- Serve the salad garnished with bacon, sautéed peppers and onions, and extra dressing on the side.
About the Lentils:
Unique in flavor and appearance, Green Lentils from Le Puy are small, dark olive green in colour with steel blue colored spots. Their unique flavor is due to the favorable climate and volcanic soil in the Le Puy en Velay area in France, a carefully defined production zone where the lentils are grown according to stringent standards.