As Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall grumbles in River Cottage Veg, arugula has become too popular for its own good. The bitter green has become so ubiquitous in salad mixes that it's hard to appreciate arugula's ability to support a salad on its own. Fearnley-Whittingstall's arugula-fennel-lentil salad is an attempt to celebrate the green on its own merit. Earthy lentils and the crunchy, anise notes of fennel do indeed balance the peppery lettuce, and bright lemon zest enlivens the mix.
Why I picked this recipe: I am guilty of overlooking arugula leaves; here was a good opportunity to right that wrong.
What worked: The three main components worked wonderfully together, giving me a bite of bitter, earthy, and anise-sweet in every bite.
What didn't: The dressing wasn't acidic enough for my taste. Instead of a 4:1 ratio of oil to lemon juice, I'd drop the oil back to something more like 3:1, or even closer to 2:1. The lentils can take it. I'd also add salt to the cooking liquid for the beans.
Suggested tweaks: You could use any type of lentils or tiny legume that hold their shape when cooked (skip the red or yellow types). If fennel isn't your thing, you could try thinly sliced celery in its place.
Reprinted with permission from River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, copyright 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 2/3 cup (125g) French green lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 small onion
- A few parsley stems (optional)
- 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs
- 2 to 3 ounces (75g arugula) or arugula mixed with a few other peppery leaves such as mizuna
- For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- A pinch of sugar
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the lentils in a saucepan and add plenty of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for a minute only, then drain. Return the lentils to the pan and pour in just enough water to cover them. Add the bay leaf, onion, and parsley stems, if using. Bring back to a very gentle simmer and cook slowly for about half an hour, until tender but not mushy.
Meanwhile, to make the dressing, put the oil, lemon juice, mustard, lemon zest, and sugar in a screw-topped jar, season with salt and pepper, and shake until emulsified.
When the lentils are done, drain them well and discard the herbs and onion. While still warm, combine with a good half of the dressing. Leave until cool, then taste and adjust the seasoning; you could add a little more salt, sugar, pepper, or lemon juice if needed.
Trim the fennel, removing the tough outer layer (unless the fennel is young and very fresh). Halve the bulb(s) vertically, then slice as thinly as you can, tip to base.
Divide about two-thirds of the lentils among wide serving bowls. Scatter over the arugula and fennel and trickle over the rest of the dressing. Scatter the remaining lentils over the top and serve.