Monday, April 2, 2012

French Lentil Salad, Creativity, and Underdogs in the Kitchen

A Guest Post by Finn the Cooking Assistant (aka the dog picker)

It's time to cultivate a little creativity in the kitchen. Too much of the same old routine makes me yawn.

Sometimes you just have to invent something new. That's how this lentil salad came about. The Lady invented it. Abundant rain and not enough outside time, inspired my creativity this week, too. I invented another game.

But before I begin my story, I have to say Management has been claiming that I tend to embellish stories. I admit, I have a creative mind not to mention a strong dedication to my sense of smell, but embellished? You might as well say "made up." Judge for yourself.

I've spent plenty of hours going through pockets and pocketbooks and I was tired of digging around for small change. It's sometimes not worth the effort involved. Not to mention the hand waving and loud angry words by Management that accompanies this particular activity.

Okay, fun is fun, but I was craving a bigger pay off than cookie crumbs. And to get it, I'd been thinking up a new game I call "Jump and Grab," and I was looking for an opportunity to try it out.

A few days ago when the Lady was carrying a stick of celery smothered with almond butter, I suddenly leaped up and grabbed it before she'd realized what happened. The exhilaration of running with my treasure spurred me on. I choked pieces of celery down so fast I barely tasted the almond butter.

The Lady caught up with me, grabbed what I had left and snapped, "Bad dog!"

The words sore loser came to my mind.

It isn't like jumping for food is anything new. Not long ago the Lady cheered me on as I leaped at food for this "action" picture. So what's the big difference? The air, a hand? She must have expected me to use this new skill in the future. Are humans that short sighted?

I take my inspiration for "creative" games from dogs in the past.

Badger, the last of the old dogs often rushed in when the top dogs fought. She'd steal the bone or biscuit they fought over and finish it off while they got was scolded for fighting. Always the underdog, Badger was brilliant because nobody even guessed she had it in her.

The old girl came alive when food was involved and she grabbed countless treats at our expense.

Humans think everyone wants to win. They don't realize the underdog can take it all while top dogs sort out whose ahead in the ratings. A win by stealth doesn't change the underdog's status in the canine world.

Chloe (behind) is the underdog now, at home anyway.

She plays the easy-to-get-along-with card and hangs back, insisting on sitting behind the camera, but don't let it fool you. She works the her angle like a pro, you almost might think she's in charge. The other day I heard the Man give Chloe an ice cream bowl behind my back and even as I rushed in to take it, I realized she'd taken the best licks already.
In the canine world, we don't hold grudges against winners. There will always be another bowl, another day, another opportunity.

The feeling of jumping, grabbing the treasure and running away with it was worth it. I'd do it again in a heart beat.

Why not get creative and invent your own game?

"Life is short. Live it up." Nikita Khrushchev I think he also said, "If you live among wolves, you have to act like one." No mention of what this means for dogs, however.

Somewhere someone is celebrating and it might as well be you.

This recipe started with Rockridge Orchards. The Lady brought home a treasure trove of products from the market this weekend.

We've had Rockridge Orchards cider, vinegars, but Rocksalmic vinegar only comes out once a year. It's is like balsamic vinegar only it's made with apples. And word is, farmer Wade Bennett brought the first batch of it to the market this past weekend. If you don't have access to this stuff, you can use a good quality balsamic vinegar.

I'm not sleeping on the job, I'm just not in true "photo mode" until the main course arrives.

And now, just a tiny taste. No one will know. Go ahead try it yourself.

French Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Salad
(Serves 4)

1 cup French lentils
Water to cover
1 potato, diced
1 yam, diced
1 red pepper or carrot, diced
2 tablespoons canola oil, evenly divided
Dash of garlic powder
1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and sliced
4 cups chopped seasonal greens (arugula, kale, collards, tough stems removed)
2 tablespoons balsamic (or Rocksalmic) vinegar
juice of 1 blood orange (2 to 4 tablespoons) or 2 tablespoons orange juice
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's Peppers or Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts or pecans

1. Check lentils for rocks, rinse and simmer over medium heat in plenty of water for 40 minutes or until soft but not mushy. Strain lentils.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place potato, sweet potato and pepper in a baking pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir and roast for 35 minutes or until done. Stir once. When done, sprinkle with garlic powder, and stir.

3. Combine the vinegar, garlic, olive oil, peppers and salt while lentils and vegetables cook,. Set aside.

4. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic. Stir and cook until garlic browns, add greens until they soften. Remove from heat. Combine garlic and greens with lentils and roasted vegetables in a large bowl. Blend in dressing. Garnish with walnuts or pecans just before serving.

Well maybe more than a tiny taste. This one gets 4 Paws Up!


Mal said...

This looks scrumptious! I love lentils and yams, so this is perfect! I do have a question though. I notice it calls for 2 tablespoons of canola oil in the recipe, but then it doesn't appear at all in the directions. I am totally ok with this because I believe canola oil is actually very unhealthy--but I am curious if I need to be adding 2 extra tablespoons of olive oil somewhere?

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Oh thanks you're right, I used all olive oil in this recipe not canola oil. You have to use a fairly low temperature for olive oil so you don't damage it. Thanks for visiting.

Miz Helen said...

Good Morning Debra and Finn,
Hope you and all your buddies had a wonderful holiday. The Salad looks delicious! Hope you have a wonderful week and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
Come Back Soon!
Miz Helen & Jaque

Nancy Ging said...

I always thought Bassetts must have a good sense of humor to look like they do. Finn certainly proves it.

I LOVE lentils! It reminds me of my years living on the Palouse in central Idaho. Wonderful ability to absorb flavors and so fast to cook.

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

A devilish sense of humor. What would the world be without lentils?