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.
It’s hard to believe that this marks the start of the third year of French Fridays with Dorie. When I joined the group, that inaugural week, I had no idea what I was stepping into. I had been blogging for almost a year at that point. The people who read my posts were family, friends, and maybe some friends of family and friends. If anyone else was reading, they weren’t commenting, so I have no idea if they were out there, though I doubt it.
In October of 2010, I wrote my first post that was part of a collective effort. That first post was about gougeres. I was more than a little self-conscious, not knowing whether any of the other people in the group would read my posts, or even think they were worthwhile to read. I felt equally self-conscious leaving comments for these total strangers, even though we had the shared experience of making the same recipe.
Over the weeks, then months, now years, I got to know this geographically scattered group of home cooks. I feel a connection to these people though we’ve never met face-to-face. I enjoy the feeling of knowing there are other obsessive home cooks out there like me, who share the same passion of cooking and feeding family and friends, and for knowing some of these people. I like seeing what other kitchen ventures they take outside of the shared Friday recipe. I like being part of this community, even if it only exists in cyberspace.
And so, year three begins with hummus.
I’ve made my own hummus for years, usually using the recipe my mother gave me when I was in college. (Admittedly, in the past couple years, I’ve discovered Sabra hummus. I love the texture of theirs and haven’t made my own in a while, buying large tubs of it as Costco.)
Dorie’s recipe is very basic. The ingredients (all pantry staples for me) are pureed in the food processor, and there you have it. The main difference between this recipe and what I’ve made before is the absence of olive oil. Dorie’s recipe used only the reserved liquid from the canned chickpeas and lemon juice to thin the chickpea and tahini paste. Hummus sans olive oil tasted fine, so some calories can definitely be saved. I enjoyed the ground cumin that spices up this version of hummus.
To serve, I mimicked the Sabra hummus I mentioned before. I poured some extra virgin olive oil on top and sprinkled the bowl with pine nuts and a little smoked paprika for color. I served with another favorite new product (no, I’m not in marketing): Stacy’s pita crisps. I’m already a fan of Stacy’s pita chips, but these are thinner and I prefer their texture.
There’s not much else to say. This is an easy appetizer, obviously. I also enjoy hummus on a sandwich with finely grated carrots or other vegetables. This makes a big batch, so there’s enough left over to make sandwiches for lunch.
As always, we don’t post the recipes for what we make for this group. You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. You can also see how the other FFwD bloggers’ hummus came out by following their links posted here.
Wishing all my French Friday friends a Happy Anniversary! Here’s to cooking along with in the year(s) ahead! Cheers! XOX