Marinated lentil + burrata summer salad

Marinated lentil + burrata summer salad

This summer dish easily becomes a light meal by itself with the cheese and lentil combination of your choice.

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Tue 27 Jun 2023 5:15 PM
Gabriele Corcos Summer lentil salad
Ph. Eric Wolfinger

It is that Solstice time of the year again: rejoice! While until now the weather on our peninsula has not been really hinting about “summer around the corner” the way we hoped (or are used to for that matter), it is now without a doubt one of the most interesting times of the year for our fridge and pantry. The seasonal change has finally started re-shaping our family and entertaining menus. However strange and sudden it might feel, given that only a few weeks ago we were still cooking in our fireplace, we can now say that it is time for summer menus at last!

Dinners al fresco under a porch and potlucks are starting to impose on our culinary habits for the next few months. Forget the long hours spent stirring a stew or a boar sauce for your pappardelle, it is time to shorten the time at the kitchen counter. Let’s get outside and hang with friends, let’s get out of town for a fun zingarata or a family picnic, let’s cut our cooking time in half and make the most of these wonderful long summer days!

The following recipe embodies this seasonal change and the willingness to entertain: its ease of use, fresh flavors and textures are a good reason for it to end up on your list of family summer staples. In our house, we often celebrate the beginning of the warmer months with this delicious lentil salad, exactly the same way we prepare and serve the uber-traditional “good luck” lentil soup at every New Year’s dinner party. The only difference is that, while on December 31 the dinner table is usually engulfed with food and just one tablespoon of soup at midnight is more than enough, this summer dish can easily become a light meal by itself.

As always, I invite you to consider this recipe a template for you to build on, seeking flavor and texture combinations that might feel more personal to you, or simply satisfy your need for culinary adventures. It goes without saying that you can switch lentils somewhat freely (cooking times will change according to size), go French, go Umbrian or go Sicilian and tickle your palate with different legumes. Try the cheese combination that inspires you the most. While burrata, in my opinion, offers the perfect wet balance against the grain, it is also true that other dairy products might yield fantastic results as well, and not just the easiest choices like mozzarella or stracciatella. Tomino, crescenza and robiola are wonderful substitutes you might want to experiment with. If you start playing with ingredient combos now, you will probably get to the end of summer without ever making the same recipe twice.

Buon appetito e Buona Estate a tutti!

Ingredients

Lentils 

15 ml extra-virgin olive oil


1 small red onion, finely chopped


1 medium carrot, cut into ½ cm dice

1 medium celery rib, cut into ½ cm dice


2 garlic cloves, minced


1 cup green lentils (lentils du Puy, see Note), rinsed and drained 

Lemon-parsley dressing

30 ml fresh lemon juice

1 sprinkle of hot red pepper flakes


Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper + 100 ml extra-virgin olive oil


1 generous handful of minced fresh flat-leaf parsley 

8 large basil leaves, torn into small pieces 

2 burrata cheeses (about 400 grams total) 

Method

To make the lentils: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the lentils and add enough water to cover the lentils by 3 cm. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the salt. Reduce the heat to medium and cook at a steady simmer until the lentils are barely tender (not mushy or falling apart), about 20 minutes. Drain well in a wire sieve. Transfer to a medium serving bowl and let cool. 

To make the dressing: Whisk the lemon juice, hot red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil. Whisk in the parsley. Pour over the lentils and mix gently. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. (The salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to 8 hours. Season the chilled salad again before serving.) 

Mix in most of the basil. Slice each burrata into quarters and place on the salad. Sprinkle with the remaining basil and serve. 

NB While you can make this recipe with standard brown lentils or the tinier Umbrian ones, it is worth searching out the small dark-green ones, often imported from France. (It’s true that they are not Italian, but we like them anyway!) If using large brown lentils, increase the cooking time to about 30 minutes. 

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