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.
Wow! I’ve definitely fallen out of the blogosphere. I haven’t posted since last month’s Cottage Cooking Club. I need to get with the program. There’s plenty of cooking happening in my kitchen, but clearly not a lot of writing at the computer. I am sorely out of practice. I will try to get back into the game this fall.
Fall? It’s the end of August, so that means that summer is almost over. I feel it in the air with slightly chilly mornings and gradually shortening days. Fortunately, the harvest is still going strong, and we’ve been enjoying wonderful local produce from the local farms and farmers markets, and a few things from our backyard garden. Tomatoes and corn are always at the table right now and will be until the season is over.
For this month’s Cottage Cooking Club, the on-line group cooking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg, our inspiring leader Andrea from The Kitchen Lioness chose a menu of recipes that were hard to choose from. Here’s the rundown on what I picked, in the order I made them.
With the earliest of tomatoes, I threw together Tomatoes with Thai Dressing. This, like so many of the recipes in this book, showcases top-notch vegetables with just the simplest of accompaniments, here, a light Asian-flavored dressing. I wouldn’t say the dressing tasted very Thai to me, or all that Asian. It was refreshing, and I did like the fresh mint sprinkled on top. This quick salad was nice enough, though not interesting enough for me to make again.
Next up was the Leek and Cheese Toasties. This open-faced sandwich has the most amazing topping: sautéed leeks combined with thyme, cream, and Cheddar cheese. A lightly-toasted slice of bread is slathered with the cheesy leek spread, sprinkled with more cheese, and broiled until bubbling and browned. This was my favorite recipe this month. I made a double batch and ate it for lunch every day for a week. The topping is probably a bit too heavy for the hot dog days of summer, but I’ll remember this for the cooler weather and make this one again and again. Plus it reminded of my mother’s special sandwich, a “Bunni special”, the lunch we often requested or she made without us asking because it was so good and easy to put together. My mom’s sandwich was different, sliced cheese and tomato sprinkled with dried Italian herbs and broiled, but they were similar enough to make me smile.
Finally, I made Summer Garden Lentils Niçoise. If I haven’t mentioned it before, lentils are my favorite of all beans and legumes. I’ve seldom met a lentil dish I didn’t like. This lentil salad, which can be served warm or cold, includes my favorite flavors of summer: cherry tomatoes, olives, green beans, and red onion, pulled together with a mustardy vinaigrette. The cherry tomatoes were from my garden and the green beans from a local farm. Eggs transforms the salad to a meal. The first night, I chose to serve it warm with poached eggs on top. Yum! And, then the next day, eggless, this was the perfect side to the zucchini tart I had for lunch. I also liked adding herb stems to the lentils as they cooked. I threw in some basil because I picked too much from the garden. I will definitely make this combination again.
My favorite part of this group is checking out everyone else’s posts to both compare notes on the recipes I made and to figure which other recipes to add to my “must make” list. You can check out everyone’s links here.