Lentils with Mint and Feta

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Last summer I posted the recipe for what used to be my favorite Pasta and Co. summer salad.  It was probably the most popular recipe I’ve blogged, at least based on the number of people who told me they actually made it afterwards. And it’s still my sister’s favorite, which reminds me, I need to make it for her as a new baby dinner.  But a couple weeks ago, I was in charge of another new baby dinner and, having completely run out of time to make the salad myself, popped into Pasta and Co. to pick some of theirs up. Unfortunately for me, the couscous was sold out, so I picked up some turkey meatballs, green beans, and a couple different salads that caught my eye, including the lentil salad above. It doesn’t look pretty, but please believe me when I tell you it was the most delicious salad I’ve ever had. So good, in fact, that I had to make it myself the first chance I got – and I haven’t made the couscous salad since. 

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Unfortunately, unlike the couscous salad, the lentil recipe isn’t published in any of the Pasta and Co. cookbooks, so I kind of had to make it up.  Going off of the list of ingredients (so glad I had the foresight to take a picture!), I figured all I had to do was cook some lentils, add red pepper and onion, and then of course feta and mint.  Although I make lentil soup about once a week from October-April, I’ve never actually cooked just plain lentils. And while it’s not hard, I did learn the hard way that they can get really mushy if overcooked.  This salad isn’t the prettiest to look at to begin with, but cooking my lentils an extra half hour or so probably didn’t help.  Trader Joe’s sells lentils already cooked, so you could go that route and save yourself a step.  The mushy lentils were still delicious though – I could have eaten them like soup.

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Aside from figuring out how to cook lentils, this salad is a breeze to throw together. You probably don’t need to “pickle” the onion, but I did as I’m not a fan of raw onions, and I just happened to remember doing so from this recipe (which I should probably make for B&B one of these days!). If you do want to pickle your onion, do so as soon as you get the lentils simmering, and then it will be ready by the time the lentils are finished. Aside from that, it just takes a little chopping and tossing and you’re good to go.  I attempted to write an actual “recipe” but you can pretty much add more or less of anything, to taste.  A lot of people will tell you you need three parts oil to one part vinegar for a true vinaigrette, but I like to start with half and half and then adjust to taste. 

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I told you it wasn’t pretty…but it tastes so good! 

Lentils, previouslysoup (also from Pasta and Co.)

One year ago: cream of fresh tomato soup

Lentil Salad with Feta and Mint, adapted from Pasta and Co. 

Ingredients:
2 cups green lentils (brown would work fine too)
Chicken stock and white wine, for cooking lentils (optional – see your lentil packaging instructions for amounts.  I cooked 2 cups lentils in 2 1/2 cups broth and 1/2 cup of white wine, for a ration of 2.5 cups liquid to 1 cup lentils)
2 red bell peppers, finely diced
1 small or 1/2 large red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup feta, crumbled (or more to taste)
Large handful mint, chopped or torn into pieces (the more mint, the better)
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (for onion marinade, optional)

For the lentils:
Cook according to package instructions. The Trader Joe’s brand I used had me simmer mine with chicken broth, white wine, salt, and pepper for 35-40 minutes “or until liquid is absorbed.” The liquid was nowhere near absorbed after 40 minutes, so I ended up cooking the lentils for over an hour and they turned to mush – other recipes I’ve seen tell you to drain the liquid after the stated cooking time, which I’ll do next time in an effort to keep my lentils intact.

For the pickled red onion:
In a small bowl (or tupperware with a lid), whisk together two tablespoons vinegar, two tablespoons water, one teaspoon salt, and one teaspoon sugar, until sugar is dissolved. Add diced onion and toss to coat. The liquid won’t cover the onions entirely but that’s ok. If you have a tuperware with a lid, you can shake it occasionally if you want, but it’s not necessary. Let the onions marinate in the fridge for half an hour (less time is fine but 30 minutes or longer is ideal).

For the vinaigrette: 
Whisk together equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar (I used 2-3 tablespoons each) with 1-2 cloves minced garlic (depending on how much garlic you like).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the salad:
Add red onion (with brine), red pepper, mint, and feta to lentils and stir to combine.  Toss with vinaigrette and add more oil, vinegar, salt and/or pepper to taste. Let chill and serve cold or at room temperature. Garnish with more mint, if desired.

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