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Spinach Salad with Lentils and Tart Cherry Vinaigrette

January 23, 2008

I adapted this recipe from one in Gourmet magazine, using feta instead of blue cheese and omitting the bacon (though if you wanted to use the bacon, it certainly would be yummy!) I mix the finished vinaigrette right into the lentils, then just spoon some of that lentil mixture onto a bed of baby spinach and top with some crumbed cheese. Some pecans would be a nice addition to this salad if you’re in the mood.

Spinach Salad with Lentils and Tart Cherry Vinaigrette

Ingredients

3/4 cup green lentils
7 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup dried unsweetened tart cherries (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons sugar
6 cups baby or regular spinach leaves
1/3 cup feta or blue cheese
1/3 cup pecans (optional)

Directions

In a heavy saucepan cover lentils with water by 2 inches and simmer until just tender but not falling apart, about 15 minutes. Drain the lentils, and rinse them under cold running water to stop the cooking. Transfer them to a bowl and toss them with 2 tbsp vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

In another saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until hot and cook the shallot, stirring, until golden brown. Stir in water, cherries, sugar, and remaining 5 tablespoons vinegar and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by about half, roughly 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a slow stream until emulsified. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Mix vinaigrette into the lentils. To serve, divide the baby spinach among the plates. Top each bed of baby spinach with a scoop of the lentil-cherry mixture. Top each salad with crumbled feta or blue cheese, and pecans (if using.)

Note: you can make this ahead for lunches: just store the lentil-cherry-vinaigrette mixture separately, and top spinach with the lentils and cheese when ready to serve.

Makes enough for 4 salads.

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