Posts Tagged ‘savory’

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.

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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

Lentils

4 March 2011

In our house lentils are known as “cowboy food.” I still haven’t understood exactly why, but Thomas peddles his lentils-with-a-fried-egg dinner as such. And it works very well. The children might even call it their favorite dinner – it’s all about marketing, really.

Or it’s inherited, because we all love lentils, and I make them often as a side, especially in winter. Lentils were great with slow-roasted pork shoulder and sautéed baby bok choy, but they are also delicious with grilled salmon and braised fennel. Or with a fried egg. Seriously. Surely you can already hear the crackling embers of the campfire, the gurgle of whiskey poured into tin cups, horses neighing nearby…

I like this technique for cooking lentils, which breaks up the process into two basic steps: First cook the lentils in lots of water with aromatics and vegetables cut into large chunks until barely al dente. Remove from heat and discard the pieces of vegetables and herbs. Then brown more of the same vegetables, finely diced, return the lentils to the pan with the vegetable mirepoix (the finely diced vegetables browned in olive oil), and reheat until the lentils are cooked to desired consistency.

***

This recipe uses red onions and fennel, but yellow onions work just as well, and carrots and/or celery replace the fennel perfectly. I change it according to my mood, the rest of the meal, or what happens to be in the house.

2 cups green lentils (preferably Castelluccio or du Puy)

2 medium red onions

2 bulbs fennel

A good handful of sprigs of flat-leaved parsley

2 bay leaves

[Pancetta, optional]

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Very good olive oil

Balsamic and red wine vinegar

***

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 half an onion and half a fennel, reserving the rest for later.

Place lentils into a large saucepan with 4 cups (double the volume) water. Add the vegetable chunks, a few sprigs of parsley, and the bay leaves, bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat when the lentils are just starting to soften but still retain a nice bite (they will cook a bit more later). Discard the sprigs of parsley, bay leaves, and vegetable chunks, pour the lentils into a large bowl, and set aside. Quickly rinse and dry the saucepan for reuse.

Finely dice the rest of the vegetables, and wash and finely chop the rest of the parsley.

[If using, cook the pancetta until crispy, remove from pan, and cut into small strips]

Heat enough olive oil to cover the base of the saucepan. Add the onion and cook until nicely brown, stirring occasionally. Add the fennel and sweat for a few minutes until it becomes translucent. Add the lentils with some of the excess liquid. **The lentils should remain moist and shiny but not swimming in liquid. If necessary add of dash of plain water to prevent the lentils from drying out.** Season generously with salt and pepper and heat gently. The lentils will continue to cook, so test and remove from the stove when they have reached the desired consistency (I personally like lentils to retain some bite).

Check the salt and pepper seasoning, adjust, add 2 tablespoons of the best olive oil and 1 tablespoon each of balsamic and red wine vinegars [and the pancetta], stir in the chopped parsley, and serve warm.

Related recipes

Chidren’s dinner | Cowboy food

Spicy lentil and red kuri squash soup

Lentil and fennel salad with lemon and parsley

Slow-roasted pork shoulder (or butt)

2 March 2011

The long story of the slow-roasted pork shoulder starts in 1998, when I acquired my first cookbook: the River Cafe Cookbook Two (Yellow). The word at the time was that this wonderful cookbook not only had delicious recipes, but that they all worked. Indeed, this and the other River Cafe Cookbooks have been my number one go-to cookbooks over the years. I love the recipes and they always worked out very well.

For these past twelve years, the recipe for a slow-roasted shoulder of pork has smiled up at me, enticingly, from page 248, but I never tried it. One of the reasons was that I rarely ate pork, and never cooked pork, mainly because I could not find good pork. Until I discovered it at Union Square market; Flying Pigs Farm has single-handedly transformed me into a cooker of pork.

But I still didn’t make the slow-roasted pork shoulder. After so many years, the recipe seemed frozen in the forbidding aura of “I will make this one special day” dishes.

As I recently became somewhat fixated on slow-roasted lamb shoulders, and slow-cooked things in general, I gathered the necessary momentum to try the promising, melt-in-your-mouth, delicious slow pork. And it didn’t work. The recipe calls for “dry roasting” on an open rack in the oven. The flavor was amazing and the crackling skin predictably perfect, but the meat wasn’t falling off the bone. It was tasty and not forbiddingly dry, but not what I had expected. Since I had only been able to cook it the minimum suggested amount of time (8 hours), I decided that must be the problem. So I tried again. I cooked the second pork shoulder some 18 hours. Same result.

Rather than try to cook it even longer (the recipe says 8-24 hours), I decided to look elsewhere. Surely Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall must have a failproof slow-cooked pork in his River Cottage Meat Book. Alas, the recipe basically starts: “Actually, versions of this dish have already been enthusiastically championed by both the River Cafe and Nigella Lawson” and proceeds to give the same cooking method. Not helpful.

Now I really did acknowledge that the problem must be me, but I just wasn’t convinced that cooking the pork even longer would have done the trick, and how many pork shoulders need I bungle before the winter is over?

So I perused my cookbook shelves for a different recipe, one that cooked pork in a closed dish. And, not surprisingly, found it with David Chang. His cookbook Momofuku‘s pork shoulder for ramen has a simple salt/sugar rub, but I was looking for cooking time and temperature.

The answer is 6 hours at 250°F (120°C). It was perfect.

***

The quantities below are for a piece of meat of approximately 6 lbs (3 kg). The seasoning should be adjusted according to size, but the cooking time remains the same.

Note from March 2012: I have revised the cooking method. I believe starting the pork on low is a better guarantee to completely and deliciously tender meat, and finishing on high assures a crisp outside.

1 bone-in pork shoulder or butt

8 garlic cloves

2 Tbsps Maldon sea salt (1 Tbsp if using regular salt)

6 Tbsps fennel seeds

Freshly ground black pepper

3 small dried red chilies

2-3 Tbsps olive oil

Juice from 3 lemons

***

Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C).

In a mortar, crush the garlic together with the salt, add the fennel seeds, a generous amount of back pepper, the crumbled chilies, and mix with the olive oil to create a thick paste.

Remove the skin and trim some of the fat. Cut deep, long gashes into the pork on all sides. Fill the gashes with the herb/spice mixture and rub all over the pork and place in an ovenproof dish with a lid (such as a Le Creuset dutch oven), then pour the lemon juice over the pork.

Cover with a tight fitting lid (or seal with aluminum foil) and cook in the low oven for 5 to 6 hours, basting occasionally.

(Optional: Finish by increasing the oven to 450°F (230°C), take off the lid, and brown on high heat for 20 to 25 minutes.)

Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for about 30 minutes before serving.

Note: Like most slow-cooked dishes, this pork will taste even better reheated. So if planning ahead, cook the pork on low the day before for about 4 1/2 hours to 5 hours. Let it cool slowly and once cold place it in the refrigerator. On the day you plan to serve the dish, reheat the meat at 250-300°F (120-150°C) for about 45 minutes, then turn up the heat to crisp up the outside as shown above — 450°F (230°C) for 20 to 25 minutes, as needed.

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Related post:

Lentils

Slow-roasted lamb shoulder

Spiced tomato soup

16 February 2011

Traditionally for Valentine’s we invite friends over for dinner. This year I decided to make a monochrome meal. It’s frivolous – precisely. And since I was in a kitsch mood, the meal might as well be red. So on Monday I made a red meal for Valentine’s day: tomato soup, steak tartare, roasted red potatoes with pimentón, radicchio salad, mimolette and Red Leicester Sparkenhoe (orange being the closest thing we found to red cheese), and blood orange sorbet with blood orange slices.

(I first made a chromatic meal 10 years ago, a memorably fun black and white dinner that started with Sophie Calle and ended in the early morning hours with a drive out to see the sunrise on Fire Island. But that’s another story.)

Back to the soup. It was my first tomato soup. And I thought it turned out quite well. I hadn’t made tomato soup before because I don’t buy tomatoes in winter. I checked my most trusted cookbooks but all required the use of the “best, ripest” tomatoes. So I had to improvise, and find a way to make the most of the canned variety – i.e. use lots of other good flavors.

I was quite happy with the result. Thomas – less so. “The flavor of the broth is too strong.” Hmmm, this might be the opportune moment to mention that, in addition to being, in my opinion, quite good, this soup requires no broth. Granted it may have been the celery, or the cumin; Thomas wanted a tomato soup that tastes like tomatoes. For that he will have to wait until next summer.

***

Serves 6

2 x 28 oz. (1 lb) cans good whole peeled tomatoes

2 large onions

Olive oil

3 stalks celery

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

2 bay leaves

Maldon sea salt

Cayenne pepper to taste

Crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)

***

Drain the tomatoes (reserve the juice), cut them lengthwise into strips, and set aside.

Peel, cut in half, and thinly slice the onions. Heat enough olive oil to cover the base of a large heavy saucepan. Brown onions in the oil, stirring regularly.

Thinly slice the celery stalks. Add to the onions when they start to turn golden. Continue browning, stirring regularly.

Thinly slice the garlic. When the onions and celery are deep golden (after about 10-15 minutes), add the garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, bay leaves, and stir well. Add the tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes over high heat. Add the tomato juice, reduce the heat, and cook at a low simmer for about 35-40 minutes. Remove bay leaves, season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper, and blend until very smooth.

Serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream.


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