What are lentils anyway?  How are French lentils different from others?  And they’re so cute, too.  Little round orange, yellow, and green legumes ready to burst forth with nutritious, yummy, creamy goodness.  Lentils are filled with fiber and nutrients.  In salads, soups, stews, or as a side dish in this recipe, lentils are a healthy, flavorful, and can be used as an alternative to standard side dishes.  So, how can lentils be bad?

AMT Here's a tip iconI’ll tell you:
It would be wrong of me not to disclose that these little darlings, once consumed, may have you bursting forth with an undesired social embarrassment:   flatulence, bloating, gas, toots, and downright fits of farting. There, I’ve said it.

Do lentils get a bad rap??  Yes, they do.  I went to the source:  Cook’s Thesaurus for some answers for you:

Lentils are low in fat and high in protein and fiber, and they have the added advantage of cooking quickly.  Lentils have a mild, often earthy flavor, and they’re best if cooked with assertive flavorings.  The best, most delicate lentils are the peppery French green lentils. These hold their shape well, but take longer to cook than other lentils. The milder brown lentils also hold their shape after cooking, but can easily turn mushy if overcooked.  Indian markets also carry a wide variety of split lentils, called dal.   Before cooking, always rinse lentils and pick out stones and other debris.  Unlike dried beans and peas, there’s no need to soak them.  Lentils cook more slowly if they’re combined with salt or acidic ingredients, so add these last.  Bigger or older lentils take longer to cook.  Store dried lentils for up to a year in a cool, dry place.

So, how can you feed your friends and family a delicious and nutritious meal without reaching for air freshener?  Buy the right lentils.

Cooks Thesaurus recommends steering clear of dull yellow lentils called channa dal or gram dal – notorious offenders.

Rather, they recommend French green lentils, also called Puy lentils or lentilles du Puy. The French variety is prized for keeping their shape after cooking, so they’re ideal for salads and as side dishes.  These petite beauties are sold under the “Bob’s Red Mill” label.  I found mine in the bulk food aisle at Jungle Jim’s Grocery in Cincinnati.  Seriously, they can probably be found at almost any grocery or health food grocery.

Let’s make some Delicious and Nutritious Salmon and French Lentils!

at mimi's table: delicious and nutritious salmon and French lentils

Delicious and Nutritious Salmon and French Lentils

Ina Garten uses French Puy lentils.  I imagine the ones actually grown in volcanic soil in France, which is this legume’s origin.  And it was her recipe that inspired me to substitute lentils for traditional side dishes, like rice, noodles, or potatoes.  I couldn’t resist her recipe for Salmon with Lentils.  

So easy, inexpensive, and extremely flavorful.  My husband raved about the way the salmon was cooked – seared in a hot skillet and finished in the oven – crispy skin, the flesh on the rare side, which is the way Richard likes it.

bon appétit          at mimi's table signature icon

Delicious AND Nutritious - Salmon and French Lentils
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Seriiously flavorful, the crispy salmon skin and rare flesh is perfectly accompanied by Ina's French lentils simmered in vegetables.
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: French
Serves: 4
  • ½ pound French green lentils
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 cups leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons Kohser salt
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1½ cups celery, chopped
  • 1½ cups carrots, chopped
  • 1½ cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 - 8oz salmon filets, skin on
  1. Place lentils in a heatproof bowl, and cover with boiling water. Let set for 15 minutes. Drain and reserve.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic, and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add the drained lentils, carrots, celery, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Heat a dry pan or iron skillet over high heat for 4 minutes. Rub both sides of salmon fillets with oiive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, place the salmon, flesh side down, and cook without moving for 2 minutes. Turn the fillets, and place in the oven for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Spoon a mount of lentils on each plate. Place the salmon fillet on top. Serve hot.
Ina Garten removes the skin from the fish. I left mine on, because we like crispy fish skin. I substituted freshly squeezed lemon juice for the red wine vinegar in the lentils, and squeezed fresh lemon juice on the fillets after they came out of the oven.

Recipe from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa