6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
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1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, scrubbed well then finely chopped
1 cup dried French du Puy lentils, rinsed
Fine sea salt
½ teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
¼ cup fresh dill, chives, basil or mint, or a combination, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced or torn into bite-size pieces
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
2 tablespoons slivered almonds (see note)
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic, celery and carrot; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add the lentils, 1½ teaspoon of fine sea salt and just enough water to cover. Increase the heat to bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat so it is barely bubbling around the edges; cook until the lentils are just soft, 25-30 minutes. Drain the lentils.
While the lentils are cooking, combine the mustard, vinegar, herbs, ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt, and pepper to taste in the bowl of a food processor or blender, or in a small mixing bowl. Drizzle in the remaining ¼ cup of oil, pulsing or whisking by hand to form a vinaigrette. Taste, and add fine sea salt as needed.
Spoon the warm lentils onto plates. Top with the mozzarella, and sprinkle the cheese with coarse sea salt. Scatter the almonds over the mozzarella and lentils, and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Serve warm or at room temperature with bread as an appetizer, salad or side dish.
Cook's note: Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown and fragrant, shaking the pan to keep the nuts from scorching. Cool completely before using. Pine nuts may be substituted.
Nutrition values per serving: 550 calories, 37 g fat (11 g saturated), 32 g carbohydrates, 15 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 23 g protein, 45 mg cholesterol, 460 mg sodium.
Adapted from "Feast" by Sarah Copeland (Chronicle Books, 2013)