Marinated Lentils and Burrata Salad (Insalata di lenticchie e burrata)
Makes 4 servings. Wine pairing: Prosecco or pinot grigio. Recipe is reprinted with permission from “Super Tuscan: Heritage Recipes and Simple Pleasures from Our Kitchen to Your Table” by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar. (Touchstone, Oct. 3, 2017). We have great memories of al fresco meals, both in the Tuscan countryside and in our Brooklyn backyard. But this particular combination of simple lentils and creamy burrata is the perfect example of how Tuscans can take humble foods and turn them into something extraordinary. There’s nothing complicated about this marinated salad, and its “secret,” if there is one, is to let the ingredients speak for themselves.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 medium celery rib, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup green lentils (lentilles du Puy, see note), rinsed and drained
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
⅛ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
8 large basil leaves, torn into small pieces
2 burrata cheeses (about 14 ounces total)
1. 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 1 inch. 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.
2. To make the dressing: Whisk the lemon juice, 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. Re-season the chilled salad before serving.)
3. Mix in most of the basil. Tear each burrata into quarters and place on the salad. Sprinkle with the remaining basil and serve.
Note: While you can make this with standard brown lentils, it is worth searching out the small dark-green ones, often imported from France. (Between us, they are not Italian, but we like them anyway!) If using large brown lentils, increase the cooking time to about 30 minutes.