With our garden sprouting spinach and various herbs and our CSA keeping us flush with lettuce, greens and the mysterious kohlrabi, we're becoming rabbits. Add to that my love affair with lentils that didn't wane once soup season ended, and I think Andy was nervous I was trying to cut animals out of our diets for good. (Never! Though I do agree with the "eat less meat" movement for various reasons, I will never be able to pass up a good steak from Paulina Meat Market.)
How was I going to convince Andy that another lentil recipe, especially a lentil SALAD recipe, was a good idea? How about adding some blue cheese and salty, smoky cured pork product? I'm not sure I've ever seen Andy turn down anything that included bacon in the ingredients.
The recipe also called for spinach which we could grab from our garden (the spinach is definitely the blue ribbon winner so far this year), which always makes any meal more exciting.
I liked this recipe so much that I made it again a couple weeks later when Jenn came to Chicago for her bachelorette party weekend with her friend Dawn. They were both impressed, but I think I blew their minds when I broke out the homemade pizza dough. Still, 4 out of 4 people agree: this salad is awesome. (And chock full of protein, too!)
Spinach and Lentil Salad with Blue Cheese and Tart Cherry Vinaigrette
3/4 cup green lentils
7 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
8 bacon slices (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup dried unsweetened tart cherries (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 cups baby or regular spinach leaves
1/3 cup blue cheese (about 2 ounces), preferably Oregon Blue
1. In a heavy saucepan cover lentils with water by 2 inches and simmer until just tender but not falling apart, about 15 minutes. Drain lentils well in a sieve. Rinse lentils under cold running water to stop cooking and drain well. In a bowl toss lentils with 2 tablespoons vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. (Lentils may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring lentils to room temperature before proceeding.)
2. In a skillet cook bacon over moderate heat until crisp and with tongs transfer to paper towels to drain. Crumble bacon.
3. In cleaned saucepan heat 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook shallot, stirring, until golden brown. Stir in water, cherries, sugar, and remaining 5 tablespoons vinegar and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by about half, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a slow stream until emulsified. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
4. Add half of vinaigrette to lentils and toss well. In another bowl toss spinach with half of lentil mixture, half of bacon, half of cheese, remaining vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Divide remaining lentil mixture among 4 plates and top with spinach mixture. Sprinkle salads with remaining bacon and cheese.