So let's talk new-to-us cooking techniques. Who else keeps their eyes peeled for new cooking methods while perusing new cookbooks or diving into promising-looking recipes? You have to stay focused but upon discovery, at least with me, it's either:
Why didn't I think of that?! (followed by by a head thump) or
How'd someone ever come up with THAT? (with a sense of incredulity)
Definitely #2, the idea to add a turnip and a clove-studded onion to cook a big pot of lentils. Ina Garten credits a friend, me I credit sheer genius. Story goes, Ina was never keen on lentil salads until a friend mentioned cooking the lentils with a turnip. There's probably some chemistry explanation for what a turnip does to lentils but I'm going with NO.IDEA. Onion and clove are a different story, their addition is subtle, but that savory touch of allium, that teensy-weensy bit of clove is spot-on perfect. (Yes, observant readers, I'm still on an "Cooking for Jeffrey" kick, a la Roasted Applesauce with Raspberries and Celebration Salad.)
Just-made and still warm, the salad is sensual and seductive, there's no getting enough, no keeping my spoon out of the bowl. Chilled, it goes great alongside morning eggs (I keep meaning to put a runny egg on top, ohhhhh my) or dropped into a cheese tortilla for lunch. It's easy to keep on hand, endlessly easy to use up.
I already have a few lentil salad recipes that are really good, you might too. If so, try the turnip and clove-studded onion technique on your own recipe. Otherwise? Make this your recipe, it's from me, thanks to Ina and her turnip-genius friend.
RECIPE for BEST-EVER LENTIL SALAD
Time to table: 50 minutes
Makes 7 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, white and light-green parts, cut in half moons (about 2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
16 ounces (450g, about 2 1/4 cups) French lentils, rinsed and drained
1 small turnip, ends trimmed
1 small onion, ends trimmed, onion peeled, studded with 6 whole cloves
6 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced garlic (use a microplane)
3 tablespoons good mustard (Dijon, spicy brown works too)
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or a mix of red and white)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons - 8 tablespoons olive oil
Lentil Cooking Liquid, if needed
6 green onions, white and green parts, halved or quartered lengthwise if thick, then cut cross-wise
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
COOK THE LENTILS In a large, heavy pot such as Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat until shimmery. Stir in leeks to coat with fat, let gently cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until leeks are softened but not turning brown. Stir in carrots and cook for another minute. Stir in the lentils, turnip, onion, water and salt. Bring to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove turnip and onion. Drain the lentils, reserving the cooking liquid.
MIX THE VINAIGRETTE While the lentils cook, mix the garlic, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl. With a whisk, slowly whisk in olive oil.
FINISH ASSEMBLING THE SALAD Return the drained still-hot Cooked Lentils to the still-warm cooking pot. Stir in the Vinaigrette. If the lentils seem a little dry, stir in some Lentil Cooking Liquid. Stir in the green onions and parsley.
TO SERVE Serve warm immediately or transfer to the fridge and serve cold later.
MAKE-AHEAD While this salad is oh-so-good warm, it's also totally suitable for making ahead by a day or two or even three. It'd be a great dish to carry to friends for a weekend visit, say.
MORE SALT & LESS OIL Ina's original recipe omits the salt in the lentil cooking water, to my taste, legumes really need salt. She also uses a full 8 tablespoons olive oil in the vinaigrette. Don't get me wrong, it's good with that much oil. But at least to my taste a lot of oil just isn't necessary, something experienced with other lentil salads as well. Ina serves the lentils with grilled sausages on top! Not my thing but maybe yours?
ALANNA'S TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
WHAT ARE FRENCH LENTILS? Besides my favorite lentils, you mean? French Lentils keep their shape, they don't turn to mush during cooking. That makes them slightly "meatier" too, I just love their texture. I find these pretty lentils at Whole Foods and in bulk bins at other grocery stores (here in St. Louis, both at Lucky's and Fresh Thyme). They're also for sale (albeit expensive, when shipping is added) on Amazon.com. Look for lentils called "Green Lentils" or some times "Lentilles du Puy".
SHORT ON LENTILS? No problem, I was once too, just 2 cups was plenty, the yield will be less, of course, but no other real adjustments are necessary.
THAT RESERVED COOKING LIQUID Ina says to reserve the cooking liquid in case the lentils turn out a little dry. My three batches so far haven't been dry but that liquid tastes really good! If it's not needed in the salad, save it to throw into a pot of soup, even a Green Smoothies. And I keep meaning to use it for the liquid in bread. This is my reminder!
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MORE FAVORITE LENTIL RECIPES~ Julia Child's Lentil Salad ~
~ Lentil Salad with Tomatoes, Dill & Basil ~
~ Summer Lentils ~
~ more bean, lentil & other legume recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Simple Lentil Salad with Seasonal Vegetables ~
~ Homemade Lentil Soup ~
~ Two-Way Lentil Skillet ~
~ more lentil recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
SEASONAL EATING: THIS SAME WEEK ACROSS THE YEARSWine, Beet & Fruit Salad so good that it’s Dessert Vegetable Coconut Curry with Shrimp Hearty Heart-Loving Muffins Curried Carrots Cape Breton Cabbage Carrot & Fruit Oatmeal Slump Spiced Pumpkin Soup Armenian Tahini Bread Meyer Lemon Crème Fraîche Pasta with Broccoli Rabe Stir-Fried Brown Rice Butternut Squash Soup that Actually Tastes Like Butternut Squash Brussels Sprouts Recipes Roasted Eggplant Soup
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
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