French lentils with marcona almonds and goat cheese

As soon as we left Tim’s birthday lunch at Table 3 last week, we began plotting ways to re-create part of our appetizer: the savory lentils beneath our crispy duck confit. I am telling you, these lentils were something else: soft but not mushy, loaded with flavor, concrete proof that lentils will take on the character of whatever you mix them with.

thyme on a cutting board

It kind of cracked me up the way were talking about it—Was that tarragon, or was it thyme? Did you catch that little bit of sweetness in the beginning? The oil is just right!—because, seriously, for as long as I can remember, this has been something my mom does: she loves the lamb stew she orders at a restaurant, so the next day she’s buying lamb at the meat counter. I make her a crustless quiche, so she’s blending eggs and spinach the very day she gets back home.

making lentils

And I guess that makes me my mother’s daughter because, even beyond the lentils, I’ll be darned if half our wedding wasn’t the result of someone else’s great idea on Pinterest. The unmatching vintage plates? Something I saw on a blog or in a magazine. The banquet-style tables? Something someone else did, too. Now, from the burlap wreath on our front door to the way our dining chairs don’t match, I’m always pulling from someone else’s concept, riffing on it to make it my own.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s any real creativity possible in the world—I draw inspiration from so many sources and places; is it even possible to come up with ideas without it?

tomatoes cooking lentils cooking

As for these lentils: by the time we’d left our afternoon movie, we’d narrowed down most of the ingredients we thought we’d tasted, and so we picked them up at the store. I kept telling Tim how great it would be to get this recipe right because lentils are so cheap and so simple and yet they’re one of those foods I’ve always been a little intimidated by, as if making them well was reserved for the Really Good Cook.

lentils with tomatoes, marcona almonds and goat cheese

So here is what we did. Saturday, I soaked the lentils overnight; yesterday morning, Tim cooked them in water and set them aside. Then, in the afternoon, in the course of maybe 20 minutes total, we set to work: heating oil, adding tomatoes and almonds and thyme, combining this mixture with the lentils and topping the whole thing with goat cheese.

two bowls of lentils lentils with tomatoes


I think the first words out of my mouth were something like, They’re just like those lentils!

lentils for one

And this, while maybe not a mark of creativity, in my mind was a real success.

French Lentils with Tomatoes, Marcona Almonds & Goat Cheese
Inspired by Table 3
Serves two as an entree; four as a side

On soaking lentils: As mentioned in the above post, we soaked the lentils overnight before using them in this recipe. Because lentils are typically easier to digest than grains, soaking them is not necessary, but it can be helpful. Tim says he’s noticed he always feels better when he soaks them ahead of time. If you do choose to soak them, a good rule of thumb is to cover the lentils with water and add a little bit of acid (such as lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or whey); then, if they absorb all the water quickly, add more. Strain before cooking.

Olive oil
6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup of chopped organic grape tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped, salted marcona almonds
1 1/2 cups cooked French lentils*
2 to 3 ounces of goat cheese

Heat a glug or two of olive oil in a large saucepan on the stove. As the pan raises to medium heat, add in the leaves of six to eight sprigs of fresh thyme. Add tomatoes and almonds, and cook until the tomatoes are soft and you can smell the nuts roasting.

Pull off the heat and add the cooked lentils, stirring everything together in the pan. Let cool a bit. Add goat cheese (I like to slice it up a little, but you could add whole and just stir throughout—it will slightly melt into the lentils).

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. jaime @ sweet road

    Haha I do that too! I’ve come to terms with the fact that sometimes it’s just impossible to perfectly replicate the food you order in a restaurant because it’s not just the ingredients in the dish, but that atmosphere, your mood that day, the nostalgia of the event… so many factors that I just can’t possible recreate in my kitchen, but I sure can try and get close!

    1. Shannalee

      Hi Jaime! I like how you brought in the atmosphere factor: Is it the food alone that makes us love a meal or the setting in which we eat it and the people we eat it with? Really interesting to think about! In that way, our re-creations at home can take on entirely different value and beauty because of the goodness of our own kitchens and habitats!

  2. Lan

    i am huge fan of lentils myself, and it’s a relatively new staple in my pantry.

    i read this article some time ago and it’s stayed with me. it’s a fantastic read about originality, being artist, being yourself…

    being inspired is great, doing something about the inspiration is even better.

    1. Shannalee

      Great read! My favorite parts: “All advice is autobiographical;” the way he explains stealing like an artist; the freeing realization that nothing is really original; the fact that by trying to create, you learn more about yourself (this blog is a testament to that for me!). Thank you so much for sending that over!

  3. Marissa

    I don’t know about ‘those’ lentils – but THESE look delicious. The marcona almonds are a fun twist – can’t wait to try this.

    1. Shannalee

      Thanks for that comment, Marissa. That made me smile. : )

  4. Jessica @ GardenGastronomy

    I could just imagine these flavors blending together as I read this post. Gave me a huge craving for marcona almonds, and I found myself cooking up a batch of lentils this morning.

    I can’t wait to try this recipe out. Seems like it would be perfect for a grab and go salad, tossed on a bed of greens.

    I love your piece on inspiration. Nothing is completely new, but there are always new blends. Inspiration is everywhere!

    1. Shannalee

      Awesome, Jessica! I hope you enjoy these lentils as much as we have. And it’s so true that inspiration is everywhere—I’ve felt so freed since I read the article Lan posted above: all artists are stealing, if you want to call it that, by drawing ideas from some other source. That is how it works. Embracing it is good!

  5. Pingback: Lentil Stew | Food Loves Writing

  6. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen

    Aside from lentil stew, this recipe is one of the best ones I´ve seen. It´s simple, amazing flavors and quite light! I´m making it this weekend.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Hope you enjoy, Paula! After you try it, please come back and let us know what you thought!

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