When I was a senior in college, I had to take a summer of intensive French classes before I could graduate. When it came to languages, I was always a dabbler and I could never find one and stick with it, which is how I ended up in the predicament of spending 6 hours a day, 5 days a week taking French for an entire summer.
They say that immersion is the best way to learn a language but I say that that’s a lie. Because I remember nothing. Nothing! Our instructor was of the opinion that it was most useful to learn “real world” words instead of the basics and that this must be learned by immersion. So the days in my French class were spent conversing about diseases, the pros and cons of nuclear power, and the United Nations. And to this day, one of the few French phrases I remember is “j’ai l’hepatite.”
Between the whole immersion thing and the oppressive summer heat (in a windowless classroom!), the entire summer began to take on a surreal feeling. And so now whenever the weather starts getting hot and humid, I remember that summer of French immersion. A completely wasted summer because I speak no French at all. If I went to France, I’d be able to tell people to shut up and that I have hepatitis and angina and that’s it. And if I went to France and said these things to people, I fear I may end up in an institution of some sort. This would not be a good vacation.
All this rambling is to say: I decided to make a French Lentil Salad because a) it was hot and a chilled salad seemed like it would be a good lunch and b) hot days make me think of French things. And French lentils are French things!
The difference between French lentils and regular lentils is that French lentils
wear fancy little berets are slightly firmer (which works well in a salad) and a little bit smaller. You might also find them sold as French green lentils or lentilles du Puy. I paired the lentils with fresh herbs from the garden–I used a little bit of everything that I’m growing, so if you have an herb garden too, go wild! And if you’re not growing any herbs this summer, grab some thyme, rosemary, or parsley from the grocery store or farmers market. This Herbed French Lentil Salad is a perfect light dinner or lunch and it makes a great take-along for picnics and potlucks.
This Herbed French Lentil Salad is perfect for summertime picnics or potlucks.
- 1 c. French lentils, rinsed and picked through
- 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1/4 c. chopped roasted red pepper
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs
- Combine lentils and 4 cups of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low; simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils are soft enough to eat, but still firm. Remove from heat and drain.
- In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add lentils, zucchini, red pepper, and herbs and stir until combined. For best flavor, refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.
If you can't find French lentils, use brown lentils and follow the cooking instructions on the package.