Hearty ingredients like lentils and cheese need not be overpowering, if they are offered in small amounts and in the right proportion to greens. Marinated cheese is a Provençal touch, made with both fresh and dry herbs; note that it should be made well in advance. The fresh herbs impart emphatic flavor, and the dry herbs distribute themselves throughout the marinade and cling to the cheese even after it has been drained.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and seasonings. Place the cheese rounds in a small pan, cover with the herbed oil, and refrigerate at least 2 days.
For the lentils:
Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and add the water, a pinch of salt, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Drain the lentils, removing the bay leaf, and while still warm, toss lightly with the vinaigrette. Add the onion and chives and combine.
Toss the greens with just enough vinaigrette to moisten and divide among 4 plates. Arrange about 3 heaping tablespoons of lentils around the greens. Place the warm goat cheese over the greens and garnish with the chives.
Order of preparation:
• Marinate the cheese.
• Prepare the Sherry Vinaigrette.
• Cook the lentils.
• Heat the cheese.
• Assemble the salads.
The Sherry Vinaigrette can be refrigerated up to 3 weeks; whisk to recombine before using.
Grains and legumes
I’m still discovering grains that excite and intrigue me, and I urge you to incorporate more of them into your menus. Grains as well as cooked legumes, such as lentils, make a chewy or creamy bed for seared and roasted fish and for meat: and poultry, and they make the perfect center of a vegetarian meal. Beyond that, grains offer interesting textures, a variety of flavors, ease of cooking, and high nutrition and fiber content, all good reasons to try some of the dishes that follow (and those that accompany many of the fish and meat recipes), however you choose to serve them.