I’ve got a lotta love for lentils. Any food that tastes great straight on day one and only tastes better as it sits and marinates over a few days is a good food to me. Once you know how to properly cook lentils—like pasta, in a pot of heavily salted water—you’ve got one of the greatest canvases upon which to express your creativity. Lentils soak up flavors like sponges, so I encourage you to use this recipe as a jumping-off point but not as dogma. Gently heating the oil with lots of aromatics will amplify all their flavors and carry them effortlessly into the lentils once things all gets tossed together. This recipe calls for black or green lentils, both of which tend to hold their shape well when cooked, thus making them perfect for salads.
Cook the lentils:
✦ Bring a medium saucepan filled with 2 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil.
✦ Add 1½ cups black beluga lentils, give them a good stir, and return the water to a simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a simmer while they cook. Simmer until they are cooked through and no longer toothsome but not mushy, 15 to 35 minutes, depending on what type of lentils you have and how old they are. Taste them periodically to evaluate their doneness before draining them.
✦ Drain the lentils in a fine-mesh strainer and let them cool in the strainer while you prepare the walnut dressing. Reserve the saucepan.
Make the spiced walnut oil:
✦ Coarsely chop 1 cup walnuts.
✦ In the reserved saucepan, combine ½ cup olive oil and the chopped walnuts and cook over medium-low heat, swirling the pan often so that they cook evenly, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as they can turn from toasty to burnt pretty quickly. Remove from the heat.
✦ Add 1 tablespoon cumin seeds and 1½ teaspoons ground coriander and stir to combine. Using a Microplane, immediately grate 3 garlic cloves into the still-hot oil; stir to combine.
✦ Stir in 1⁄3 cup golden raisins, 1⁄3 cup red wine vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Dress the lentils:
✦ Add the drained lentils back to the medium saucepan with the walnut mixture and gently stir everything to combine.
✦ Thinly slice 1 (4-ounce) block of feta into large ¼-inch-thick planks.
✦ Tear 1½ cups basil leaves in half, or into small pieces if large, and toss them through the lentils. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Divide the lentils among 4 serving bowls. Top each with a few feta planks and black pepper and drizzle with more olive oil.
Reprinted from Cook This Book. Copyright © 2021 by Molly Baz. Photographs copyright © 2021 by PEDEN+MUNK. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.