I decided to work through the black lentils first. They’re called Beluga lentils because they are small, almost round, and shiny, like black caviar. But they taste, deliciously, like lentils. Because they have a firm texture, they lend themselves to salads.
I could taste my beluga lentil salad before I put it together. There would be cumin in the vinaigrette and the defining herb would be mint. I’d roasted a red pepper a few days earlier and it was still in the refrigerator. It was definitely going in. I’m not a big raw onion fan, but if you are, add some chopped red onion to the mix. I added a can of tuna, crumbled some feta over the top, and we made a meal of it.
Beluga Lentil and Tuna Salad
Yield: Serves 4
1 heaped cup / 200 g beluga lentils
1 medium sweet red onion, cut in half, plus (optional) 1 small sweet red onion, finely chopped
2 plump garlic cloves, crushed or coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt (about 1 teaspoon)
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
1 can olive oil-packed or water-packed tuna, drained
2 tablespoons chopped or slivered fresh mint (I used spearmint)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Freshly ground pepper to taste
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar (more to taste)
Salt to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, to taste
1 small garlic clove, minced or pureed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (more to taste)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons broth from the lentils (more to taste)
1 romaine heart, broken into small pieces
About 1/4 cup / 30 grams feta, crumbled
1. Place the lentils in a strainer and pick over for stones. Rinse well and place in a 2- or 3-quart saucepan. Add 1 quart / 1 liter water, the halved onion, the crushed or chopped garlic cloves, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add salt (about 1 teaspoon) and continue to simmer until the lentils are tender but intact, another 15 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Allow to cool in the pot if you have the time, then using tongs, remove and discard the bay leaf, the onion halves and the garlic.
2. If using minced onion in the salad, place it in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, then drain and rinse.
3. Set a strainer over a bowl and drain the lentils. Place the lentils in a salad bowl and toss with the roasted red pepper, the rinsed onion if using, the tuna, mint, chives and pepper.
4. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the vinegar, salt, mustard, garlic, cumin, olive oil and broth from the lentils. Toss all but 1 tablespoon with the lentil mixture. If desired, add a little more broth to the salad. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Toss the remaining tablespoon of dressing with the lettuce. Line plates of a platter with the lettuce, top with the salad, sprinkle with feta, garnish with sliced cucumber, and serve.