Serves 4 as a starter, luncheon or light main dish
French green lentils hold their shape better than brown lentils; they also have an earthier, richer flavor. Look for them in the bulk bins at co-ops or Whole Foods.
2 to 3 ounces very thinly sliced guanciale*
1/3 cup diced onion (1/4″ dice)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup (6-1/2 oz.) French green lentils (lentilles du Puy), sorted and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup finely diced carrot
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or a blend of olive oil and walnut oil)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
One-quarter of a small head of radicchio
In heavy saucepan, cook guanciale over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes; watch for burning. Use tongs to transfer guanciale to a small plate; set aside.
In drippings remaining in saucepan, sauté onion and garlic over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in lentils and thyme; add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Heat just to boiling; reduce heat to a strong simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add carrot and salt. Continue simmering until lentils are just tender, about 15 minutes longer; add a little more water if necessary.
Meanwhile, in mixing bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, and black pepper. Set aside. Slice the radicchio thinly across the head, then cut the slices into quarters (so they are not so long). Set aside.
When lentils are just tender, drain. Add warm lentils to mixing bowl with vinaigrette, stirring to combine. Set lentil mixture aside until it is just slightly warmer than room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes. While lentils are cooling, crumble each guanciale slice into 3 or 4 pieces. Stir radicchio into lentil mixture just before serving; top with guanciale.
*As an option, use guanciale that is sliced about 1/8 inch thick. Before frying, cut each slice across the length into 1/8-inch-wide strips (lardons). Continue as directed; guanciale frying time will be slightly longer.