Easy, cheap and tasty...all hallmarks of the Budget College Cook. I think it goes really well with roasted meat dishes and the best thing about it is that you can make it an hour or two ahead because it's great at room temperature or when it's slightly warm. Makes life a bit easier when you're in a dinner party situation.
Sorry about the lack of pictures...I sorta forgot about the camera!
Start with two cups of lentils. If you can get your hands on authentic lentils de Puy, great...if not, don't sweat it. You're looking for the little brownish/greenish lentils generally sold as French lentils. I purchased mine from the bulk section of local health food store...$1.89/lb.
Measure out two cups and sort through them...there might be small bits of branches, little stones..whatever...better to carefully remove them now rather than when you and your guests are already at the dinner table.
Rinse and drain the lentils. Place in a pot. Add enough water to cover by a few inches. Drop in a bay leaf if desired. Maybe a sprig of thyme if the spirit moves you. Bring to a boil and drop the heat to a medium simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes. While cooking, add a few heavy pinches of salt. I started tasting at 20 minutes. You don't want to overcook the lentils...they should hold their shape.
While the lentils are cooking, finely mince a carrot, a stalk of celery, a clove of garlic, an onion and, I used my ghetto mandolin, slice a bulb of fennel. A word of warning on the mandolin: please, please, please, please be careful when using those things. Especially if you've got a cheap one with a not-so-sharp blade...i don't know if there's a more dangerous piece of kitchen equipment. I've nicked up my fingertips on multiple occasions...
I took the time to actually do a somewhat decent job mincing the veggies...My goal was to have the lentils and veggies mirror each other in size.
Make the dressing: Take your usual 3:1 ratio of oil:acid. I used olive oil and sherry vinegar. I used a blender to help emulsify the mixture. I didn't add enough vinaigrette to mine...I like this dish with a vinegary tang...next time I will add more. I guess I forgot how thirsty the hot lentils are...they really soak up the mixture. Anyhow, I think I used 6 tablespoons of oil, 3 tablespoons of vinegar and a teaspoon or two of dijon mustard.
Cook the minced veggies...just saute until they wilt a bit. Season with salt and pepper. I cooked my veggies in duck fat...sooooo tasty.
When the lentils are done cooking, drain them and combine with the cooked veggies and vinaigrette. You might want to add some of the vinaigrette, taste and add more if you want. After all, your taste buds are different than mine. Season with salt and pepper. I also tossed in a tablespoon of duck fat to the lentils. That stuff is avian gold.
Time- 30 minutes.
Food Cost- Maybe a buck in lentils, 60 cents in veggies a bit of money for the sherry vinegar and olive oil...$2 total?