Some of my favorite people and I headed down to Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, spread out some blankets and proceeded to unveil the best picnic food...maybe...ever? The menu included Ginger Bourbon Cocktails, the best Pressed Sandwich I have ever had, Potato Salad with Mint, Bacon and Snap Peas, 3 Bean Salad, incredibly delicious brownies, and the lentil salad pictured above.
I have made this salad many times before after getting the recipe from a friend years ago. I have changed it a bit over the years to suit my tastes and believe that the combination of roasted grape tomatoes, toasted walnuts, dried currants, fresh basil and a delicious caramelized vinaigrette is a keeper. I will say, this isn't the easiest salad to whip together, but I always appreciate its tastiness while eating it.
To serve 6-8:
- 1 pint of grape tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 cups of French lentils (lentils de puy), well-rinsed
- 1/3 cup of toasted, chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup dried currants
- 1/3 cup of chopped basil
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- Caramelized Sherry Vinaigrette (see below)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, add the lentils and enough water to cover by several inches. Add a large pinch of salt and bring them to a boil. Lower the heat to a strong simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until tender but still chewy. Drain, then add to a large bowl.
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil over them. Sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and sugar and toss the tomatoes on the pan to coat. Place in the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes. Add to the bowl with the lentils.
Add the basil, walnuts, currants and shallot to the lentil mixture and combine thoroughly but gently. I usually add about 5-6 tablespoons of dressing, stir again, and taste, adding salt, pepper and more dressing if needed. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Garnish with more chopped fresh basil if you like.
For the Caramelized Sherry Vinaigrette:
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons water
- 6 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon of good quality balsamic vinegar
In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Bring to a rolling boil and cook until slightly syrupy, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Add the syrup to a blender, along with the remaining ingredients, and blend until emulsified. The vinaigrette will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge.