More than visually striking, beluga black lentils not only retain their shape when cooked properly, but offer a meatier texture than green or brown lentils. Keeping them firm is easy following our fool-proof plan:
Begin with 1 cup of black Beluga lentils. Rinse them very well in several changes of water and then drain. Bring a large pot of water to boil just as you would for pasta except skip the salt - sodium is often the culprit in unevenly cooked legumes i.e. soft outside, crunchy inside. When the water is rapidly boil add lentils and immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer the lentils for 10 minutes or so, never more than 15. Drain in a colander and set aside for further use. These cooked lentils will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days. Ours don't last that long though as Cafe Drake employs the tiny jewels in this winter salad as below.
BELUGA LENTIL AND MUSHROOM SALAD
We're pretty impressed with ourselves when we serve this salad nestled in Bibb lettuce leaves as an elegant first course. Leftovers are usually gobbled up with simple garlic crostini after guests depart for the evening but cold the next day is also sublime. Visual pun foodies might also try a spoonful over sour cream-crowned baked potatoes and see if anyone actually misses the caviar!
Make a dressing by whisking together about 2 t. of Dijon mustard, 2 T. good olive oil and 2 T. of your favorite vinegar (we've been using sherry, vermouth and an Anjou pear variety lately). Toss the dressing in a mixing bowl with about 8 thinly sliced baby bella mushrooms (white button mushrooms would work of course as well). Season all generously with salt and black pepper. CAREFULLY add in the lentils and stir gently to incorporate. Set aside for 30 minutes or more and re-season as needed before serving. The main goal here is to stir the lentils as little as possible to avoid breakage. If you have them around you can always add in some snipped chives and/or minced parsley but toss in just before eating.