Lentils slip in and out of my consciousness throughout the year, filling out warming stews and serving as a bed for braised meats during the winter, then resurging as a base for cold yet hearty salads in the summer. Every year I revisit this particular salad of lentils, cucumbers, olives, and mint tossed with a sherry vinaigrette, whether to dole out for lunches throughout the week or as a healthy contribution to a summer cookout.
While the obvious pairing with cucumbers and olives is feta, I reach for ricotta just as often instead. I stir in this creamy cheese just before digging in and love the way it mixes with the vinaigrette to create a lustier dressing. I list the option for either cheese in the recipe below. Use whichever you're in the mood for!
If you've neglected lentils in light of rising temperatures, give this refreshing, filling salad a try to bring them back on your culinary radar.
Cold Lentil Salad with Cucumbers and Olives
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups French lentils
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium cucumbers, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 cup ricotta or feta cheese
Combine the lentils, garlic, and bay leaves in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the water and pull out the garlic and bay leaves. Refrigerate until cold.
While the lentil are chilling, make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, salt, and vinegar. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly until the dressing has emulsified.
Combine the lentils, cucumbers, olives, and mint in a large bowl. Pour over the vinaigrette and toss to evenly coat. Dot with ricotta or crumbled feta just before serving.
If you are planning to eat the salad throughout the week, wait until before serving each day to add the mint.