Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tasting the Region: Lentilles du Puy

Weeks before I go on vacation, I start doing research about the area, and most important, about the food my destination has to offer. What's in season now? What dishes are they known for?  What are the local specialties? I am stunned to hear that there are people who actually cannot name one regional dish or product from the places they've visited.  Believe it or not, there are even some who pack up the camper's mini-fridge with food from home- because they think it's cheaper and because they could care less about the 'exotic' dishes of other countries.  What a shame!
If you're like me, your heart probably sings when you wake up in a foreign town and realize it's market day. Or when you bump into a little gourmet shop selling wonderful treasures such as mustards, oils and fancy salts.
Actually, vacations have become the source of new culinary addictions for me. Take Burgundy for example. After tasting dishes like boeuf bourguignon, oeufs en meurette and coq au vin (all dishes made with red wine), I cannot live without a bottle of pinot noir in the house- just in case I need to make a dish a little more exciting.
In the Ardèche, I fell in love with chestnuts. I remember eating at a restaurant where they served a mean salad made with local ham, crème fraîche and sweet, crunchy chestnuts.  It was addictive!
On a trip to the Auvergne, I discovered lentils like I've never had them before- lentilles du Puy.  These little dark-green delicacies won my heart from the first bite.  No trip to France goes by without me buying a few boxes of the really good, authentic stuff.  My favorite way to eat these lentils is in a stew with some spicy merguez sausages on the side and perhaps a cool tomato or endive salad. I've also cooked them in soups and used them in salads with goat's cheese and bacon. And the best part?  They're rich in protiens, vitamins and minerals- unbelievably healthy!
This salad is also one of my favorite ways to eat them. I am sure you'll love it. And if you haven't experimented with these lentils before, do give them a shot in other dishes. Honestly, I feel like such a healthy country girl when I eat anything with Puy lentils! 
Bon Appétit!
Salade de lentilles à la Grecque

A hearty salad, delicious on its own as a healthy lunch or served as a side dish with a roast chicken.

Serves 2

120g lentilles du puy, rinsed
375 ml water
1 bay leaf
2 thin spring onions, chopped (also use the green)
150g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on their size
10 thick green olives filled with red pepper, chopped
half a cucumber, peeled and chopped
70g feta, cubed
small handful of parsley, chopped

for the dressing
1 tsp grainy mustard
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
3 tbsp extra vergin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring the lentils along with the bay leaf to the boil.  Immediately reduce heat to a simmer and let the lentils cook for 30-35 minutes in a covered pan.  Drain the lentils, remove the bay leaf and allow to cool. Whisk all of the ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl.  Add the spring onions, cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumber, feta, parsley and the lentils to the bowl.  Stir everything carefully and serve. 


A Dutch Brit said...

I totally agree, I go on holiday hoping to be culinary inspired.
I don't understand people that take food with them either, but what really gets to me is when people visit countries like Thailand and eat- chips! (and even worse- at mcDonalds!!

Paola said...

Oh that is just an absolute disgrace. Seriously, I've heard that there are certain areas in Spain where (except for the weather) you would swear you were in the NL. Everyone speaks Dutch and they sell things like frikandellen. Talk about getting a little culture- food or otherwise.