Ah, what can I say? Paris, tu me manque. I lived there from April to August this year, and feels like only yesterday that I left. We lived on la rive gauche in the 5th arrondissement which extends southwest from Notre Dame. It contains a lot of universities and intellectual activity, which is why we were there, and presumably what drew other expats there like Hemingway and Picasso.
Our apartment was close to the bottom of on the best streets in Paris – rue Mouffetard. This street – which now seems like a little cobblestoned alley – used to be the main drag from Paris to Rome during the Roman times. Perhaps it’s history is what saved it from Haussmann. Now, it’s unusually thin and windy (and hilly – after spending a day walking around Paris, it always made the last few meters home seem like torture), so it’s a pedestrian road filled with small restaurants, bars, and food shops. The street and most of the restaurants are really touristy, but in a good way. There are a lot of those classic Parisian bistros with the chairs facing outward and the little, little tables and a little old man playing the accordion. You can pick any number of those, or of cheese shops, wine shops, or bakeries. But also, there’s a guy, Boucherie Saint-Médard, who roasts little chickens outside, and their fat drips onto potatoes roasting in the bottom of this contraption – that is really delicious!
This dish – lentilles vinaigrette – can be found on the menu of probably every bistro in Paris, and usually with leeks or eggs or both. But it’s also the kind of thing that’s really cheap, delicious, healthy, and easy to make at home.
Leeks & Lentils Vinaigrette
- 2 small (but not baby) leeks
- 2 tsp butter, divided
- 2 tsp olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp your favorite sweetener (agave, sugar, etc)
- 1 cup (200 g) lentils
- few sprigs thyme
- few bay leaves
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup (5 g) parsley, minced
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp whole-grain mustard
- 1 shallot, minced
- Trim the leeks. At the white end, make sure to take as little off as possible so that the leaves of the leeks are still attached there. At the green end, trim off as much as needed to get the leeks to fit in your pan and on your plates. Now halve the leeks lengthwise.
- Heat 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to bubble, put the leeks in cut-side down. When the underside of the leeks starts to turn golden-brown, about 5 minutes, flip them over. Add 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) water to the pan, and season the leeks with 1 tsp sweetener, salt, and pepper. Cover, and let simmer until very soft, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, fill a pot (big enough to boil your lentils) with water, the thyme, bay leaves, and eggs, and salt well. Bring to a simmer, and add the lentils, noting the time.
- After 7 minutes, take the eggs out and plunge them in some cold water to stop their cooking. Peel them and cut each into four slices. Chop up the outside slices.
- When the lentils are al dente, after having cooked for about, strain them, making a point to pick out any bay leaves or thyme sticks that you see.
- Return the empty pot to the stove, add 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil. When the butter begins to sputter, add the parsley leaves, reserving some for garnish, and fry for 1 minute. Add the drained lentils, frying for a minute. Add vinegar (to your taste), letting its liquid steam out. Take the pan off the heat, and stir in the mustard and shallots, salt and pepper. Make sure to taste the lentils, and season them accordingly.
- Spoon the lentils onto plates, place the leeks and egg slices on top, and garnish with the remaining chopped eggs and parsley.