This lentil salad is complex and bright, thanks to aromatics such as fennel, dill, celery and, most interestingly, Pernod. This anise-flavored liqueur both infuses the lentils during cooking and makes up the dressing, adding a subtle sweetness of licorice that compliments the fennel, grapes and dill. Enjoy a bowlful for a satisfying lunch or as a side to a larger entree, keeping in mind that it works wonderfully as leftovers.
Pernod can be purchased in major grocery and liquor stores, or you can substitute other anise-flavored liqueurs such as pastis, ouzo or anisette.
Pernod Lentil Salad with Grapes, Fennel and Dill
2 cups French green lentils, uncooked
1 bay leaf
½ cup Pernod, divided
1 large fennel, tops separated from the bulb
4 celery stalks, tops separated from the stalk
1 large shallot, halved where it naturally separates
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2½ cups green grapes, halved
¾ cup dried tart cherries
2⁄3 cup chopped fresh dill
In a large saucepan with a lid, cover the lentils with 6 cups water. Add the bay leaf, a little over half of the Pernod, the fennel and celery tops (keep them as whole as possible for easier removal later), and the larger half of the shallot. Season very generously with salt and pepper, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside to cool, discarding the bay leaf, fennel and celery tops and shallot half.
Finely chop the remaining shallot, transfer to a bowl, then whisk together with the remaining Pernod, olive oil, lemon juice and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper until combined into a dressing.
Finely chop the fennel bulb and celery stalks. Add to the cooled lentils along with the grapes, cherries and fresh dill. Pour the dressing over the top and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.