Archive for April, 2011

Lentil and fennel salad with lemon and parsley

28 April 2011

I made this salad for Easter lunch on Sunday. I imagined it as I went. Or so I thought.

Many people liked it a lot, and one friend in particular complimented me on the originality of the pairing. I graciously accepted the comment, but all the while something in the back of my mind was nagging. Surely I had not really come up with the idea. I must have seen it somewhere. Speaking to my mother on the phone the next day I asked her about this salad. Had she not previously made something similar that might have half-consciously inspired me?

My mother is an incredible cook, and a nutritionist. Not a steamed-carrots-and-brown-rice kind of nutritionist. She loves good food, really good food. Meat, fish, vegetables, salads, desserts, and – yes – butter. She has written a few books about nutrition, one of which is a book of recipes. Sure enough, one of those recipes is a lentil salad with fennel, parsley, and coriander.

This lentil and fennel salad is different, but the inspiration – as it turns out and like so many other things in my life without my realizing it at first – is my mother’s.

***

1 cup green lentils (preferably Castelluccio or du Puy)

1 small red onion

2 bulbs fennel

A generous handful flat-leaved parsley

1 bay leaf

3 Tbsps good olive oil

2 Tbsps balsamic vinegar

Juice and zest from 1 lemon (more lemon juice may be required depending on how juicy it is)

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

*

The lentils are cooked the same way as for this basic lentils recipe

Pick through the lentils to look for small stone intruders that must be discarded.

To wash lentils, cover with cold water and drain in a fine mesh sieve.

Peel and cut into large chunks the onion and half a fennel, reserving the rest of the fennel for later.

Place lentils into a medium-sized saucepan with 2 cups (double the volume) water. Add vegetable chunks, a few sprigs of parsley, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat when the lentils are cooked to your liking – I like them to retain a nice bite. Discard sprigs of parsley and vegetable chunks, pour lentils into a large bowl, and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

*

Wash and finely chop the rest of the parsley.

Cut the fennel in half. Place it face side down onto the cutting board, and cut into thin strips, height-wise.

Season the lentils with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper. **The measurements given above are suggestions. I find that lentils hold up to a bold amount of acidity. It is best to season gradually, and adjust according to taste.**

Toss the lentils with the fennel and parsley. Check one last time for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve.

*

Related posts

Lentils

Dandelion, fennel, and pumpkin seed salad with pumpkin seed oil

Happy Easter!

25 April 2011

My grandmother taught me how to eat Easter eggs. You have to be two. Each person holds one hard-boiled egg gently but tightly in their fist, with only the tip of the egg exposed. Then the eggs are crashed one against the other. The egg that doesn’t break is the winner and can continue the egg-crashing contest with other contenders.

The consolation for losing at this game is that you can eat your egg immediately.

To eat a hard-boiled Easter egg:

1) peel the egg

2) slice it in half crosswise

3) remove the yolk from each half carefully, without it crumbling

4) pour a little olive oil and a few drops of red wine vinegar in the cavity left by the yolk

5) place the yolk back on top and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6) eat the whole seasoned half egg in one bite

Happy Easter!

In Haute Savoie | Reblochon and tartiflette

14 April 2011

I’ve been going skiing in Haute Savoie since I was twelve. Initially with my family, later with friends, and this year – somewhat greedily – first with friends, and then with family.

Spending a (fairly boisterous) week together has been a lucky and indulgent way for us to keep in touch with friends who don’t live around the corner anymore. This year the children very nearly outnumbered the adults and there was no late night dancing, but it was, as always, a culinary treat.

Before going I was pretty sure I would want to write about raclette, which in these mountains is not prepared 1980s-suburban-dinner-party-style on little individual pans, but, rather, an entire half raclette cheese is mounted onto a simple heating device, melted, and scraped directly onto boiled potatoes, to be eaten, delectably, with cornichons, cured meat, and frisée or escarole salad.

But I am not going to write about raclette. We did eat raclette – no skiing holiday would be quite right without it – but by the time friends left and I had time to take a few pictures, spring had attacked with such full force that the idea of raclette receded too far back into winter to be summoned up again. Until next year.

Not so with reblochon, and tartiflette.

Reblochon is a typical round, creamy, raw-milk cheese from Haute Savoie protected by an AOC.* As the story goes, reblochon dates back to the 13th century. At the time, peasant dues to land owners were calculated according to the amount of milk produced in one day, so ingeniously, on inspection days, cows were not fully milked. A fraudulent second milking produced less abundant but creamier milk ideally suited to the production of cheese. The name reblochon apparently comes from the local dialect “re-blocher,” which means “to pinch a cow’s teats a second time.”**

Reblochon is delicious as is, a cheese plate in itself, but it is also decadent as tartiflette, another variation on cheese and potatoes, Savoie-style. Thomas and Valerie H are the masters of tartiflette. Every year they prepare the dish – or rather dishes, to accommodate 13 adults and 13 children, dietary needs, and picky eaters. I defer the recipe to them.

*Appellation d’origine contrôlée : A French certification that strictly regulates the geographic origin and production methods of certain foods
**Story loosely translated from www.reblochon.fr

***

Tartiflette

Recipe edited and approved by Thomas and Valerie H

Potatoes

Bacon

Shallots

Reblochon(s)

***

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Peel the potatoes, add them to the boiling water (whole or cut in half depending on the size – ideally all the pieces should have approximately the same size so that they cook evenly). Cook until just soft but still al dente. Drain and let the potatoes rest until cool enough to handle.

Cut the bacon into small strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) wide. Fry the bacon over medium to high heat in a large skillet. Remove, set aside, and drain excess fat, leaving some in the skillet.

Finely cut the shallots, add to the skillet, and cook in bacon fat until golden. Line an ovenproof dish (large enough to hold two reblochon halves) with a layer of half of the shallots.

Cut the potatoes into slices about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick. Place them on top of the bed of shallots. Add the other half of the shallots, the bacon, and spread evenly over the potatoes.

Slice the reblochon(s) in two horizontally and place it, rind side up, on the potatoes. Cut the sliced reblochon in further pieces to fill in the corners and sides of the skillet, so that the potatoes are completely covered with reblochen. No additional seasoning is required, the bacon, shallots, and the reblochon provide for everything.

Slip into the oven and bake until the cheese is golden and bubbling on the sides. Take out and let rest for about 10 minutes until the melted cheese cools down and begins to solidify slightly (If served too early, the tartiflette will be too liquid).

Serve with a large winter salad such as frisée or escarole. And white wine from Haute Savoie.

Bacon

Poppy seed and almond cake

4 April 2011

I wanted to write about this cake, which I made, in close succession, once for Louise’s first birthday, again to take these pictures, and another time in between.

It is fiendishly good. It also seems to be the object of a small controversy.

I found this cake on Lottie + Doof and it looked perfectly irresistible. But one small thing irked me about the recipe; the fact that it contains almond extract but no almonds, which feels like cheating, just a little bit. So I thought about adding almonds. I was slightly worried about the fluffiness factor so alluringly portrayed, so, standing there, in front of my ingredients, I pondered – a good five minutes – whether I should substitute some of the flour with ground almonds, or not. I decided yes. And barely half a minute later, I read the blog author’s response to a comment on his poppy seed cake post: “My recommendation would be to try the original before adding almond meal. The texture is what makes this so special, and the meal will change that.” I very nearly threw away my mix of almonds and flour. But I didn’t.

My cake, though undoubtedly much denser than the original, was also completely delicious.

The second time I made the cake I used no flour at all. Thomas insists it is the better version. I (respectfully) disagree. Without flour it is too grainy and buttery. This observation should of course be a hint that the initial version is in fact truly the best. Possibly. But I like dense cakes. Plus, the recipe without almonds can already be found in at least two places. I stand by this one.

***

Slightly adapted from Food and Wine via Lottie and Doof

3/4 cup (200 g) poppy seeds

2/3 cup (100 g) blanched almonds

14 Tbsps (200 g) unsalted butter

1 cup (200 g) sugar

4 eggs

3/4 cup (100 g) flour

2 tsps baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

Zest from 1/3 lemon*

Powdered (confectioners) sugar for dusting

***

Bring 1/2 cup (filtered) water to boil in a small saucepan, remove from heat, stir in the poppy seeds, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.

In a food processor, pulse grind the poppy seeds until lightly crushed. Remove poppy seeds and set aside. Pulse chop the almonds until finely ground.

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a 10 x 5″ (25 x 13 cm) baking pan with parchment paper and butter the paper generously.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, almonds, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the (softened) butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the poppy seeds until well combined. Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate each time. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon zest. Then gently stir in the almond/flour mixture until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a skewer or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar through a fine mesh sieve before serving.

*The lemon zest should be just enough to make the flavors pop without giving a lemony taste.


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