Research shows that taste and smell work together to help guide our perception of the flavor of food. Food without scent, is a large part of why I find the flu season so gastronomically depressing. Anytime you need to blow your nose to taste your steak, you know things are getting desperate. In this light, the old school slow cooker becomes a brilliant device: an aromatizer and purveyor of olfactory delight. Because who doesn't love the smell of cooking food when you come home from work starving? This fall, I found a clever slow cooker technique for French lentil salad. Our Slow Cooker Lentil Salad with Roasted Squash has a traditional French Dijon style vinaigrette, is garnished with a flurry of cheese, herbs and nuts, and with a nod towards fall, accompanied by caramelized roasted Delicata Squash. Do not hesitate to use bold flavors in this salad, a lentil under seasoned is a truly woeful thing. This slow cooker technique is inspired by one of our favorite slow cooker reference books.
Yield: Serves 4
- 2 cups du Puy lentils (French green lentils), rinsed
- 2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
- 2 cups water
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 black peppercorns
- 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 pounds Delicata squash, unpeeled, cut into wedges, skin on (if using another winter squash, peel)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta
- 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- For the lentils: Pour the washed lentils into your slow cooker (ours is 6 1/2 quart). Pour the broth, water, rosemary, thyme, bay, pepper, onion, vinegar and salt over the lentils and stir to combine. Cook covered on low heat for 2-3 hours. Ours took 2 1/2. Taste after 2 hours to ascertain doneness, the lentils should taste cooked, have some give, but retain their firmness. Once cooked, drain the lentils through a large mesh strainer and transfer to a large bowl.
- For the squash: Preheat oven to 430.
- Toss cut squash in a large bowl with oil, salt and pepper.
- Distribute squash on a baking sheet using a silicon baking mat to avoid sticking. Make sure squash are not touching. Roast for about 35 minutes. Turn once during cooking. Remove from oven when your squash are cooked through and have some golden brown color to them.
- For the Vinaigrette: In a small bowl whisk together all the ingredients in the vinaigrette (vinegar, garlic, oil, salt, pepper and mustard). Whisk until smooth.
- Pour the vinaigrette over the warm lentils and stir gently with a spatula to combine. Taste and add more salt, mustard, or vinegar as needed.
- Serve the lentil salad warm or at room temperature with the roasted squash, topped with goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, shallots and green onions.
- We highly recommend sourcing some heirloom Delicata squash, it has a flavor similar to butternut squash with a bonus of having edible skin!
- Store the lentil salad separately from the toppings, cheese and herbs and it will keep well for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature prior to eating to allow for the best taste, adjust seasonings to your palate.