Healthy French cooking – a new way to travel
This month I’ve been focusing on healthy French recipes, like these French lentils. My family and I were going to take our first trip to France this month, but had to cancel due to the pandemic.
So we’ve been traveling virtually, trying dishes typical of Southern France, like Niçoise Salad, Ratatouille, baked fish in parchment (en papillote), and scallops with white wine caper sauce (see similar recipe). It’s also a good way to make use of summer produce.
One night we projected a slideshow from France (you can find some on Youtube) onto the wall while we ate our dinner with a French wine. It really did feel more exciting than just eating at home.
This week, I saw that I had French lentils in the pantry and decided to make them Provençal-style with rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, and a variety of fresh vegetables. Provençal French lentils are a very simple and delicious way to make lentils, with vegetables and herbs that are available year round.
All of these recipes are inherently healthy as they are loaded with fresh vegetables, herbs, and olive oil, and lack the heavy cream sauces and butter that is so typical of classic French cooking.
How to cook French lentils
To make this dish, first rinse and soak your French lentils for at least an hour before you start cooking. This will make the lentils easier to digest and much faster to cook. You can do this step the day before, if you prefer, and when the lentils have rehydrated, drain them and place them in a container in the fridge overnight. But I usually just soak them starting in the morning if I’m going to make the lentils for lunch.
If you don’t have French lentils, don’t worry! You can use green lentils or probably almost any kind of lentil you have on hand. Let me know how your dish turns out if you use another variety.
I recommend sautéing the onions first to make them sweeter and less pungent. Then you can add the carrots and celery, followed by the zucchini. Zucchini cooks faster, so you can add it last. Add the lentils, broth, and aromatics and simmer until lentils are soft or al dente. Then season with salt and pepper.
Here’s a live video my daughter and I did making Provencal French lentils this past week. You’ll see how easy it is so make. Each Wednesday we do a live show on Facebook at 12 pm CST.
A heartier version
This version of the recipe is vegan, but if you want a heartier dish, you could brown some bacon, pancetta, or Italian sausage, and sauté the onions in the drippings (instead of olive oil). And if you want a bit of a smoky flavor without adding bacon, you can add a few pinches of smoked paprika along with the fresh herbs.
You’ve got some options for leftover French lentils. You can serve them cold as a salad. Just add some chopped tomatoes, parsley or basil, cucumber, capers or olives, and a simple vinaigrette (try my Dijon vinaigrette recipe). Top with some crumbled feta if you wish.
Or, make your leftover French lentils into a soup! Add 2-3 cups of broth (depending on how many lentils you have leftover), bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes. Add 1-2 cups chopped spinach or kale and sea salt to taste. Turn off heat. Garnish each bowl with fresh basil or parsley.Print
This is a simple and delicious way to make lentils, with fresh herbs and vegetables that are easy to find year round. Add more broth and seasonings and make into a soup! Double the recipe if you want to have leftovers.
1 cup French lentils, rinsed and soaked in water for at least 1 hour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste or 1 medium
tomato, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small bay leaf
1 square piece kombu or kelp seaweed (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese or lemon, cut into wedges (optional)
- When lentils have rehydrated, drain and set aside in a bowl.
- Heat large sauté pan or medium Dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, and pinch sea salt. Sauté for about 3 minutes, then add carrot, celery, garlic, and rosemary. Sauté a few minutes more.
- Add lentils, zucchini, water (or vegetable or chicken broth), tomato, fresh thyme, bay leaf, and kombu (if using). Cover, bring to a boil, then turn heat to low, and simmer until lentils are soft, about 20-30 minutes.
- Add salt and a few grinds black pepper. Simmer 5 minutes more. Turn off heat and remove bay leaf and thyme stems.
- Serve over rice or noodles. Garnish with parmesan cheese or a squeeze of fresh lemon, if desired.
Make a lentil salad with leftover lentils. Add some of all of the following: diced fresh tomatoes, diced cucumber, chopped fresh parsley and/or basil, capers or sliced kalamata olives, crumbled feta cheese, and Dijon vinaigrette.
Make soup with leftover lentils. Add 2-3 cups of broth (depending on how many lentils you have leftover), bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes. Add 1-2 cups chopped spinach or kale and sea salt to taste. Turn off heat. Garnish each bowl with fresh basil or parsley.
Keywords: healthy French cooking, Provençal recipe, French lentils, plant-based recipe
More Healthy French recipes
More Healthy French recipes are available on my subscription course, Cooking Together. Every month there is a new theme, with June being Healthy French cooking. All recipes and videos are archived so when you join you’ll get access to past content as well as current content. Join today to bring joy back into your kitchen!