Monday, July 9, 2012

Recipe Inspirations: French Lentil Salad with Fresh Mint

Finn the Cooking Assistant will return next week.  He claims he's busy working on his memoir, but it's been a few months now and he's still on the first chapter.  Like a politician, he's been known to stretch  the truth if it improves his chances of getting rewards, but how long can a first chapter take?

The door to his room was closed.  He'd demanded privacy for writing, but I couldn't resist sneaking in to see how the book was coming along.  This is what I found.   

Eyes wide open, deep in dreamland concentration,  the boy acted as if he didn't hear me at all.  All I can say is, I can't wait to access those stories.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this post about Bayview Farmers Market and my newest lentil salad recipe.

Recipe Inspiration 

When I consider what's for dinner, sometimes an idea for an ingredient gets planted.  I might see a recipe that features an ingredient and I start planning the whole meal or dish around it.  I thought my recipe originated in this popular book that I got it from the library, but I must have already had lentils on my mind this past week as I perused the recipes because I'd added this lentil soup recipe to my list of must make recipes.  It's good to have an outline before you start creating any dish.

The Green Lentil Salad in the book was a good pattern to work with--green lentils, leek, onion, carrots, garlic, herbs, chives, sherry vinegar and olive oil.  For a whole meal this recipe definitely needed more vegetables, and maybe a few nuts for crunch. I was also leaning towards mint and kalamata olives for flavors.  I had mint in the garden that I could use, so I kept those flavor possibilities in mind at the market on Saturday.

What inspires you in the kitchen?  

Bayview Farmers Market

On Saturday morning I took the ferry to Whidbey Island and drove to the Bayview Farmers Market.  Whidbey Island Writers Association has a booth there with over 40 book titles displayed.  I left  new recipe cards with a great fennel-orange salad recipe on the back, so if you get to this market, stop by and pick up the latest postcard recipe and add it to your salad file. 

I love that my book is at a farmers' market and Whidbey Island--a thriving locavore-, writer- and artist- centered community.

Check out these cool birdhouses.  I want the little trailer birdhouse!  I think even my Cooking Assistant would be impressed and I'm positive that Mair Farm Cat would have some different ideas about a birdhouse in our yard.

Tis the season for English shelling peas--what a treat!   They're more of a luxury item for us, since the pods usually get tossed on the compost heap and that's half of what you pay for when you buy them in the pod. We have sugar snap and snow peas in our garden, but not the English shell peas.  (Next year, I swear!)  I've tried cooking the pods, using them for stock and last year someone mentioned they juiced them, but I've never be fond of any of these ideas.  If you have some different ideas for shell pea pods, let me know.  Can't stand tossing food dollars on the compost heap . . .

I was really excited to see the new potatoes at half the price I paid for them last week. I got one of these 2 pound bags which was more than enough for the lentil salad.  And the red, white and blue (well, purple, but it's close enough) appeal is a great way to tweak customers' interest.

I bought carrots for color.  Big or small these are such a hit at our house, I can never seem to keep enough to satisfy my Cooking Assistant. 

Though baby carrots can be supersweet, don't rule out bigger specimens for sweetness and flavor.  Flavor really depends on the variety, farming techniques, the soil and how long the carrot traves from harvest to table.  Here's a hint--don't buy cheap old carrots if you want flavor.

This lentil salad is a vegetables lovers' dream.  I sometimes get carried away by the amount of vegetables I add to dishes.  Keep in mind which vegetables add sweetness, which add pizzaz and color. Also I added spearmint, but you could use peppermint. Also remember, the flavor of mint gets stronger the next day, so don't overdo it with mint.  A little goes a long way.  And you can use a different type of nut, it's there mostly for crunch and protein.

(Serves 4)

1 cup French lentils, sorted (remove any tiny rocks or sticks)
3 cups water
5 small new potatoes, ct into bite size pieces
1 shallot, small dice (optional)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's Peppers
2 cups chopped raw vegetables (cucumber, celery, carrots, summer squash, peas or blanched cut green beans)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 large clove garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Handful of freshly chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup roasted pistashios

1. Rinse, drain, and cook lentils in simmer water for about 30 minutes or until done. Drain.   While lentils cook, steam new potatoes until tender, 5 minutes.  Rince with cold water, drain and set aside.

2. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add shallot and oil.  Cook and stir unitil shallots begin to brown.  Add Mama  Lil's and potatoes.  When onions are browned, add to lentils in a large salad bowl.  Mix well.

3. While vegetables cook, whisk together lemon juice, raspberry vinegar, garlic, and  olive oil.  Blend dressing with lentils.  Stir in mint and kalamata olives. Garnish with pistashios.

This salad is protein perfect for potlucks and picnics.

I wasn't sure my Cooking Assistant would appreciate kalamata olives, mint and pistashios, but the boy continually surprises me.  He gave it four paws up.   

But guess what Finn doesn't like?   We discovered it quite by accident this weekend.   Stay tuned next week for the answer.

And for dessert--don't forget the berries . . .  I know Finn won't forget.  I'm posting this salad on Summer Salad Sundays at Easy Natural Food.  Check out the link up party for great salad inspiration.


Miz Helen said...

Hi Debra,
Your French Lentil Salad with Fresh Mint looks delicious. We have the most beautiful mint in the herb garden it will be perfect for this salad. Hope you are having a fantastic week and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
Come Back Soon!
Miz Helen

Debbie @ Easy Natural Food said...

I love the French lentils, they're my favorite by far! Love the combination of flavors and crunchy vegetables in this salad. Thanks for sharing this with Summer Salad Sundays, look forward to seeing you again soon!

Debbie @ Easy Natural Food said...

Congratulations! I have chosen your salad as one of my featured salads this week! I have tweeted it, pinned it and shared it on my Facebook page. It will be featured on Summer Salad Sundays this coming Sunday. Thanks for linking up and I hope to see you again soon!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Debbie that's so sweet! I will post it on Pinterest and share your post on my Facebook page!