When Chez Panisse restaurant opened a café upstairs from the main dining room, it quickly became one of my watering holes whenever I went to shop or visit friends in Berkeley. Since it was always so jammed, it was best to show up for lunch just after the doors opened at 11 a.m. My favorite lunch was a baby green lentil salad with soft fresh goat cheese crumbled on top, Steve Sullivan’s rustic peasant bread and sweet butter, and a Perrier mineral water, all for about $5.00.
The café switched to taking reservations to relieve the crowds, so it is difficult to get in for a casual spur of the moment lunch anymore. So here is my version of her favorite baby lentil salad with the addition of brown rice. Brown rice and lentils are a really toothsome grain and pulse combination.
- 1 cup baby French Green lentils or Black Beluga lentils
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sprigs fresh or pinch dried thyme
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar of choice (my favorite is O brand pinot noir or merlot vinegar, use a bit less if you use cabernet vinegar)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 cups cooked and cooled, room temperature brown jasmine rice, or other brown rice
- 3 green onions, chopped with part of the green, or 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery or sweet red bell pepper
- 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped golden raisins
- 3 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
- 5 ounces plain fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Make the lentils in the rice cooker. Rinse and pick over the lentils. Place the lentils, water, salt, and thyme in the bowl of the rice cooker. Turn on the rice cooker to the regular or porridge cycle and cook for 50 minutes. The liquid will all be absorbed (if not, pour it off). When the timer sounds, open the cover and cool the lentils to room temperature right in the cooker bowl. Discard the thyme branches.
Prepare the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Prepare the salad. In a large bowl, combine the room temperature rice, warm lentils, celery or pepper, green onions or chives, red onion, parsley, raisins, and walnuts. Moisten with the dressing by drizzling in and mix to evenly combine; you will probably have some vinaigrette leftover, which can be refrigerated up to a week.
Serve the salad at room temperature, adding the crumbled goat cheese right before serving.
Excerpted from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2003, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.
Text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.