Warm French Lentil Salad with Tomatoes, Marcona Almonds, and Goat Cheese

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As soon as we left Tim’s birthday lunch last week, we began plotting ways to re-create part of our appetizer: the savory lentils beneath our crispy duck confit.

Vertical overhead image of a round white ceramic bowl of green lentil salad with goat cheese, almonds, thyme, and tomatoes, on an unfinished aged wood surface with scattered nuts and herb sprigs, printed with orange and white text in the middle and at the bottom of the frame.

I am telling you, these lentils were something else – soft but not mushy, loaded with flavor, and serving as concrete proof that this humble ingredient will take on the character of whatever you mix it with.

The way we were talking about it kind of cracked me up. Was that tarragon, or was it thyme? Did you catch that little bit of sweetness at the beginning? The oil is just right!

For as long as I can remember, this has been something my mom does.

Overhead slightly oblique image of a white ceramic bowl of lentil salad with a stainless steel serving spoon, on an unfinished wood table with scattered Marcona almonds and sprigs of fresh thyme.

She loves the lamb stew she orders at a restaurant, so the next day she’s buying lamb at the meat counter. I make her a crustless quiche when she comes to visit, so she’s blending eggs and spinach together the moment she gets home.

And I guess this confirms that I am officially my mother’s daughter because, even beyond these culinary projects, I’ll be darned if half our wedding wasn’t the result of someone else’s great idea on Pinterest that I just knew I had to try for myself.

 

The mismatched vintage plates? Something I saw on a blog. The banquet-style tables? Pulled directly from the pages of a magazine.

Now, from the burlap wreath on our front door to our eclectic collection of dining room chairs, I’m always pulling from someone else’s concept, and riffing on it to make it my own.

Sometimes I wonder if real creativity is still possible in the world. I draw inspiration from so many sources, is it even possible to come up with an original idea?

As for these lentils, in the time that it took to attend a matinee showing of the latest new release, we’d narrowed down most of the ingredients we thought we’d tasted, and were on our way to pick them up at the store.

I kept telling Tim how great it would be to get this recipe right because lentils are so cheap and so simple to prepare, and yet they’re one of those foods I’ve always been a little intimidated by. Somehow, I felt as if making them well was reserved for the Really Good Cook.

Closely cropped vertical overhead image of a white ceramic bowl of homemade lentil salad with crumbled goat cheese, chopped blanched Marcona almonds, chopped red cherry tomatoes, and fresh thyme, on a wood surface with scattered nuts and herbs in soft focus in the background.

So here is what we did:

On Saturday, I soaked the lentils overnight. In the morning, Tim cooked them in water and set them aside.

In the afternoon, in maybe 20 minutes total, we set to work heating oil, adding tomatoes and almonds and thyme, combining this mixture with the lentils, and topping the whole thing with goat cheese.

With eager and anticipation, we sat down to eat…

And the results were incredible.

I think the first words out of my mouth were something like, “They’re just like those lentils!”

While this may not have been an achievement of unique individual creativity, in my mind, recreating this delicious dish was a real culinary success.

For a similar mix that I adore, our recipe for lentils with shallots, strawberries, and goat cheese is equally delightful.

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Overhead horizontal image of a white bowl of lentil salad with tomatoes, almonds, thyme, and goat cheese, with a spoon in the bowl, on an unfinished wood table.

French Lentil Salad with Tomatoes, Almonds, and Goat Cheese


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 entrees/3 sides 1x

Description

Warm lentil salad with goat cheese proves that simple is often best. It’s satisfying as a side dish or a vegetarian entree.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped Marcona almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked French lentils
  • 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Remove thyme leaves from stems. Once oil is hot, add thyme leaves and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes and almonds to the pan and cook until tomatoes have softened and nuts are fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in cooked lentils and goat cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, if desired.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with extra thyme leaves.
  • Category: Lentils
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Side Dish

Keywords: lentils, lentil salad, goat cheese, Marcona almonds, vegetarian

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prepare and Measure Ingredients

Wash all of the produce well.

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and roughly chop the almonds. Remove the leaves from the thyme stems.

Horizontal closely cropped overhead shot of a large glass mixing bowl of cooked green lentils, and smaller white ceramic and glass bowls of olive oil, crumbled goat cheese, blanched Spanish almonds, and red cherry tomatoes that have been sliced in half, on an unfinished wood surface.

Known for being softer and sweeter than regular almonds, the Marcona variety is a specialty product from Spain that adds a little something extra to this dish.

Vertical overhead image of a small glass bowl of blanched whole Marcona almonds, on an unfinished wood surface.

If you can’t find them, substitute with regular almonds that have been blanched to remove the skins. Or, pick up a pack on Amazon.

Now Foods Marcona Blanched Almonds, 8 Ounces

Measure all of the remaining ingredients.

If your started by pre-cooking your lentils, great! If not, start by placing them in a colander or strainer and sift through to remove any debris or rocks. Thoroughly rinse under running water.

Horizontal overhead image of green lentils soaking in water in a glass mixing bowl, on an unfinished weathered wood surface.

We like to use green (or sometimes a mottled greenish-brown) lentils for this recipe, since they’re a bit more firm than other types and hold their shape nicely when they’re cooked.

You have the option to soak the lentils overnight to make them easier to digest and cook more quickly. After rinsing, place them in a small bowl and add enough cool water to cover by about an inch. Let them soak overnight.

Overhead horizontal image of green lentils covered with water in a nonstick saucepan, on an unfinished wood surface.

The next day, give them another rinse and drain before cooking. Add them to a medium-sized saucepan with 3 cups of water. Low-sodium vegetable broth is a nice alternative to add a little extra flavor.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until softened but not mushy. Drain any remaining water.

Step 2 – Heat Oil and Thyme

A hand at the left of the frame pours oil from a small glass bowl into a nonstick frying pan, with a small glass dish of red cherry tomatoes in soft focus at the top left corner of the frame, on an unfinished wood background.

Place the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.

Overhead horizontal image of olive oil in a nonstick frying pan, with small glass bowls of halved red cherry tomatoes and blanched Marcona almonds, with sprigs of fresh thyme to the right, on an unfinished weathered wood surface.

Once the oil is hot, add fresh thyme leaves from about 6 sprigs and cook until fragrant, for about 30 seconds.

Step 3 – Add Tomatoes and Almonds

Add the halved tomatoes and chopped almonds to the saucepan. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and the almonds are fragrant, stirring frequently for about 5-8 minutes.

Remove from heat.

Step 4 – Stir in Lentils and Goat Cheese

Overhead horizontal photo of a nonstick saucepan of cooked French lentils, halved cherry tomatoes, and chopped blanched almonds, on a wood table with a small dish of nuts.

Add the lentils and crumbled goat cheese to the saucepan.

Closely cropped horizontal overhead image of a nonstick saucepan filled with cooked French green lentils, crumbled goat cheese, red cherry tomatoes that have been cut in half, and chopped blanched Marcona almonds, with a few scattered green thyme leaves, on an unfinished wood surface.

Stir until well combined.

Step 5 – Garnish and Serve

Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and serve.

Overhead horizontal image of a white bowl of lentil salad with tomatoes, almonds, thyme, and goat cheese, with a spoon in the bowl, on an unfinished wood table.

Leftovers keep will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, and may be served warm or chilled.

Sustainable Pulses

In addition to being high in filling fiber, lentils are also a low calorie protein source that’s rich in iron, folate, and polyphenols – plant compounds that help protect against heart disease.

But putting nutrition aside, there’s another important benefit of lentils and other pulses: sustainability. The goal of sustainable eating is to conserve resources to reduce our impact on the environment so that future generations will also have access to nourishing foods.

So how do pulses fit in? The EAT-Lancet Commission is a group of more than 30 world-leading scientists that get together to review the current literature and provide science-based recommendations for following a healthy, sustainable diet. For 2019, their top recommendation is a global shift towards more plant-based foods, specifically pulses.

Unlike animal proteins, pulses have a very low carbon footprint, use less water to grow, and enrich the soil that they’re grown in, making future crops more nutrient rich.

Overhead closely cropped horizontal image of a white bowl of homemade lentil salad with nuts, cheese, and tomatoes, with a serving spoon, on a wood surface with fresh thyme and Marcona almonds.

Another benefit? Pulses are easy on the budget. Get more lentils in your life with these tried-and-true Foodal recipes:

Are you a fan of lentils? We’d love to hear your favorite ways to eat them in the comments below. And don’t forget to give this recipe a rating after you’ve tried it!

Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photo via NOW Foods. Originally published on April 30, 2012. Last updated: March 29, 2019 at 15:27 pm. With additional writing and editing by Kelli McGrane and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

9 thoughts on “Warm French Lentil Salad with Tomatoes, Marcona Almonds, and Goat Cheese”

  1. Haha I do that too! I’ve come to terms with the fact that sometimes it’s just impossible to perfectly replicate the food you order in a restaurant because it’s not just the ingredients in the dish, but that atmosphere, your mood that day, the nostalgia of the event… so many factors that I just can’t possible recreate in my kitchen, but I sure can try and get close!

    • Hi Jaime! I like how you brought in the atmosphere factor: Is it the food alone that makes us love a meal or the setting in which we eat it and the people we eat it with? Really interesting to think about! In that way, our re-creations at home can take on entirely different value and beauty because of the goodness of our own kitchens and habitats!

  2. i am huge fan of lentils myself, and it’s a relatively new staple in my pantry.

    being inspired is great, doing something about the inspiration is even better.

  3. I could just imagine these flavors blending together as I read this post. Gave me a huge craving for marcona almonds, and I found myself cooking up a batch of lentils this morning.

    I can’t wait to try this recipe out. Seems like it would be perfect for a grab and go salad, tossed on a bed of greens.

    I love your piece on inspiration. Nothing is completely new, but there are always new blends. Inspiration is everywhere!

    • Awesome, Jessica! I hope you enjoy these lentils as much as we have. And it’s so true that inspiration is everywhere: all artists are stealing, if you want to call it that, by drawing ideas from some other source. That is how it works. Embracing it is good!

  4. Aside from lentil stew, this recipe is one of the best ones I´ve seen. It´s simple, amazing flavors and quite light! I´m making it this weekend.

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