Lentil Salad with Curry Spices and Yogurt
This delicate salad is full of punch. Little French lentils are tossed with tangy yogurt, fragrant spices, and just enough cayenne pepper to add heat. Lemon juice and cilantro freshen and lighten the flavors. Serve with croutons or grilled pita bread.
1 1/2 cups French lentils, about 9 ounces
1 bay leaf
1/4 medium size red onion, diced, about 1/2 cup
1 small carrot, diced, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 red bell pepper, diced, about 1/2 cup
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
Rinse the lentils and place them in a medium-size saucepan; cover generously with cold water and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the lentils, being careful not to undercook or overcook them.
Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil and drop the onion in for 15 seconds. Scoop out with a strainer and toss with a splash of Champagne vinegar. Drop the carrot in for 1 minute, then drain and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar, spices, salt, cayenne, and black pepper.
Drain the lentils when tender; remove the bay leaf and immediately toss with the vegetables and the yogurt mixture. The lemon flavor will be strong at first, but the lentils will gradually absorb it. Toss in the cilantro just before serving.
French lentils are particularly good for marinating, so be sure to use them. They cook quickly and hold their shape and texture well. Watch them closely during the last few minutes of cooking--there's a fine line between undercooking and overcooking them.