The Sacramento Co-op has recently spruced up their bulk food selection, stocking some heirloom varieties alongside the workaday staples. I’ve long taken advantage of the bulk green lentils (to make Arthur Schwatrz’s pasta e lenticchie), lentils du puy (to use for Alice Water’s lentil salad recipe), and red lentils (for my own version of dal). When I saw that the Co-op was selling black Beluga lentils in the bulk section (organic, $3.59/lb) I thought it’d be a great opportunity to try out a new recipe from an extremely useful article called “Winter Salads” by James MacGuire in the current issue of the Art of Eating. This article is inspiring and although it focuses, as the title suggests, on winter produce I think we have a few more weeks before the late spring and early summer produce takes over the market. I found it so inspiring because it has a long list of simple, easy-to-execute recipes that typical of old-school bourgeoisie restaurants in France featuring run of the mill winter vegetables dressed in one of two sauces, a mustard or a cream vinaigrette.
I’d heard lentils du puy referred to as the “caviar of lentils” but clearly someone else thinks that title belongs to these tiny black lentils! I followed the recipe as it was written, except for substituting the Beluga lentils for the lentils from Puy and it turned out great! Once cooked and salted, these lentils are indeed reminiscent of beluga caviar — black, glistening, firm in texture yet creamy, and savory in a earthy saline kind of way. The article suggested serving this with saucisson de Paris, which is a garlicky dried sausage. I couldn’t find that locally, so served it with Rosette de Lyon — equally garlicky — and it went very well together.