Based on the multitude of blogs in Internet land, it’s easy to feel inadequate in the kitchen. So many bloggers project an image of detailed menu planning, access to picture-perfect locally grown seasonal ingredients, and impeccable housekeeping. I realize it could be illusion, but it highlights my own reality of day-to-day (sometimes last minute) meal planning, a clean but “lived in” kitchen, and the ever-present feeling of trying to catch up.
True confessions: being part of a cooking group like Cook the Book Fridays, I like that the various recipe selections eliminate a decision to be made, though I’m always losing track of the schedule. My lack of pre-planning means that I often don’t think about how to incorporate these recipes into our meals in a logical way.
This week’s recipe for French Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts is a side dish that could go with almost anything. I adore lentils, especially the tiny French lentils. If you take care not to overcook them, they are perfect in a salad. I’ve made lentil salads similar to David Lebovitz’s recipe from My Paris Kitchen, but there are a few takeaways that I particularly liked with this recipe. For example, I usually add raw crunchy vegetables (i.e. carrots, celery, and red onion). In this recipe, they are added the pot of lentils for the last few minutes of cooking. The veggies retain their crunch but the brief cooking softens them ever so slightly for a texture that feels just right. Minced shallots in the dressing add an extra oniony note. The toasted walnuts were also a delicious touch.
While the goat cheese was complementary to the flavors, I think I might have liked the salad more without it. It would keep a little better too. Goat cheese is also the only ingredients that isn’t reliably on-hand in my fridge, allowing this to be made on a whim. Overall, this is a nice version of lentil salad that I might make again.
Speaking of lack of planning, I also made the Hummus that my friends made a couple of weeks ago. I made it on time, but didn’t have a chance to write a post about it. Wow! I’ve been making hummus for decades, but there is something about this recipe that takes it to a new level. It could be the ridiculous step of peeling the chickpeas, which sounds extraordinarily fussy. I’ve been reading that peeling them results in a silkier texture, but it’s time-consuming. I used canned beans (related to lack of planning) so I talked myself into the peeling step. It turned out to be easier than I thought. And the hummus turned out extra creamy. I did have to add at least half a cup of liquid to move it beyond pasty, but I was thrilled with the end result. David’s recipe had many suggestions for adorning the hummus. I sprinkled my bowl with sumac and toasted pumpkin seeds and the all-important glug of olive oil. This is hands-down the best hummus I’ve made at home. At some point, I’ll try it with home-cooked chickpeas. In the meantime, I stocked up on cans of chickpeas to make more.
Sometimes we like something to nibble on while dinner is cooking. It’s always something simple, typically a bowl of guacamole or some cheese and crackers. When company comes over, I get a little fancier and often make some kind of dip. I’m particularly fond of variations on white bean dips. This week’s choice for Cook the Book Fridays from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen introduced a new option to our pre-weeknight dinner snacking: Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil.
The first step is to make a batch of Rosemary Oil. Rosemary and parsley leaves are blanched and drained, then steeped in warm olive oil for a while. The herbs and oil go for a whirl in the food processor to puree the herbs, then the herbs are strained out of the oil. The result is a jar of verdant fragrant herbaceous oil. I’ll be drizzling this on everything that invites it in the weeks to come.
The tapenade itself comes together quickly with pantry items: canned artichoke hearts, green olives, and capers along with olive oil, lemon juice and a couple of cloves of garlic. It takes about 30 seconds. A generous glug of rosemary oil adds an extra spark of flavor. Served with crackers or baguette slices, this winning combination makes a perfect starter.
I also learned this tidbit from the vignette on the page opposite the recipe. Did you know that while tapenade refer to an olive spread, the name tapenade is derived from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas? According to David Lebovitz, it isn’t tapenade without capers!
I suspect my friends enjoyed tapenade as much as I did. To validate my theory, follow their links here. Due to copyright considerations, I don’t publish the recipes here. You can find the tapenade on page 53 and the rosemary oil on page 332 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Or feel free to drop me a line and I’ll share the recipe with you.