Mozzarella and Lentil Salad with Fresh Herb Dressing

I’m pretty sure I don’t appreciate fresh herbs as much as I should. I know they impart aromas and flavors that just can’t be matched from a jar of the dried stuff. Yet I find myself heading back to my spice rack more often than not. Granted, usually it’s going in something.

I made the journey to Tabor Bread, a local bakery, this weekend. It’s taken me forever to get here. As a glorified bread-lover, I’m kind of appalled it’s taken so long. Shame on me. It took all my willpower not to order everything. I know it’s never going to last, and it’s really not that far away. I just need to go more often. A small batard, walnut sticky bun, and mountain fougasse [white wheat dough filled with fire-roasted vegetables, herbs, and cheese] later, I was a happy girl. That fougasse was heated, cut into fours, and served with olive oil and pickles. There were all kinds of herbs, olives, and cheese in there. I hadn’t felt like I loved olives and herbs as much until that exact moment. My god, it was good. Herbs. Herbs make everything better [well, maybe not cereal…].

It made this salad totally worthwhile. The mozzarella didn’t hurt either. It’s the kind of salad that needs something simple with it, like roasted chicken or some toasted bread. It’s fresh and earthy in the only way herbs and lentils can be. That dressing, though. Delicious. Divine. The total process was easy. Perfect for cooking up while drinking a glass of wine, which seems to be the norm lately. I’m not sad about it. Or having to make more journeys to Tabor bread more often [that sweet potato and nutmeg boule!].

Inspiration: With Style and Grace

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • handful of assorted fresh herbs, finely chopped [chives, basil, and thyme for me]
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 teaspoons toasted pine nuts
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

If you want to take the lazy route, throw the garlic, celery, and carrot to a food processor to cut down on your finely dicing time. I’m a huge fan.

In a medium saucepan, add the lentils, a pinch of salt, and just enough water to cover. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and allow to cook until tender, about 30-35 minutes.

Mix together the 4 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, fresh herbs, and mustard either in a blender or shake it together in a jar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You’re only going to take 6-8 minutes to finish this part, so make sure your lentils are done or are close to done at this point. Heat the remaining two tablespoons of the olive oil in a pan on medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the carrot and celery mixture. Spread it out evenly on the pan so it can evaporate some of the water that was generated and really soak up some of the oil while it sautés. When they’re soft and fragrant remove them from the heat and add them to the lentils. Toss the mixture with the chunks of mozzarella and drizzle with the dressing. Stir well before serving. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts.