Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lentils du Puy

I have an odd food shopping....let's call it a quirk. I'm prone to purchasing new ingredients after an interesting recipe gets me all fired up. And I'm particularly intrigued by bulk bins. Unfortunately my follow through doesn't always match my initial enthusiasm. I've made it my unofficial project the last week to try and use up some of the myriad grains, legumes and various sundry other pantry items I've collected.

It's lead to some surprisingly satisfying meals. And further experimentation is definitely warranted. Quinoa was a bit of a revelation. Clearly I have not been a vegetarian...well ever, but somehow I missed out on some of the staple grains. The "kitchen sink" style quinoa salad I made on Sunday needed some tweaks, but it was surprisingly easy and tasty for something so healthy.

But tonight's project topped it. In one shopping fit I purchased multiple lentil varieties. And aside from a decent side for fish one night I haven't touched them since. I move the pretty multi-colored mason jar housing them almost daily to get at other items in the cabinet, but haven't felt inspired. Tonight I finally managed to make use of some of the contents in a lovely, easy meal made up of a mash-up of a few different recipes.

Lentils du Puy are small dark lentils, they're often described as green but I honestly think they're more indigo or purple. From what I gather they are traditionally from the Auvergne region in France. The provenance of mine was by way of Whole Foods, so I can't vouch for the authenticity of their native land. Tonight's dinner was inspired in part by a vegetarian take on another recipe and in part by a blog I read about one woman's favorite lunch from a Paris bistro.

Essentially it's lentils cooked in white wine with eggs. So simple, but SO delicious. I'm continually amazed at the complex flavors that wine and fresh herbs give the most basic dishes. I add wine to a lot of things, it's probably what drew me to this recipe. I tend to add a splash to any cooking broth or sauce. Even a recent attempt to make pesto for a pasta salad with limited kitchen tools was remedied with a splash of wine--with decent results I must say.

Regardless, here's the basics of tonight's foray into the Great Cabinet Purge. There are pictures, but cooked lentils aren't particularly photogenic. You'll have to trust me, it was very pretty. Enjoy.

(Guide to my abbreviations: C=cup; T=tablespoon, as opposed to t=teaspoon)

Lentils du Puy Cooked in Wine, w/ Eggs

1/2 C lentils
1 bay leaf
1/2 C wine
1/2 C broth
1 med onion or 2 shallots, chopped fine
1 T flour
1/4 C parsley

-boil the lentils and bay leaf in water until tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and set aside.
-saute the onion/shallot in oil until tender.
-add wine, broth, flour and the cooked lentils.
-bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
-add parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
-fry two eggs in oil/butter, leaving yolk runny
-serve eggs over lentils with a side of greens
(note: I added some shredded aged gruyere, just because, but I don't think it's necessary)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lazy Hazy Summer

The dog days of summer have hit with a vengeance. A week’s vacation, followed by the requisite crazy week at work that almost (but not quite) makes you regret the time off, coupled with the first dismally hot spell of a D.C. summer have sapped me of the will to do anything productive. The blog is clearly suffering as a result. Cooking and eating have, however, continued unabated. So here, in lazy list form is a synopsis of recently test driven recipes and food other people fed me since my last substantial blog post.

  • Grilled pork loin with pineapple basil salsa. The basil really really made this one. I’ve tried it a few different ways, really it’s the salsa that makes this worth trying. Simple. Delicious. Repeatable. And has officially replaced mango salsa as my fruit based condiment of choice.
  • Plums cooked with rosemary, sugar and juice over any kind of cream based goodness. It’s equally awesome with a dollop of mascarpone, sour cream or whipped cream. I think it’d be equally phenomenal paired with Greek yogurt, ice cream or quark.
  • Fresh tomato sauce with capers and olives over penne. Needs some tweaking, but I’m developing a mild obsession with capers. I plan to revisit this one.
  • Raw oysters and clams on the half shell eaten on the dock, with a steamed crab follow up. Clearly this was not a cooking episode, but to the cousin who kindly shucked them all for us: my thanks. Yum.
  • Quinoa salad with grilled veggies and a champagne vinaigrette. I’ve been intending to try cooking quinoa for months. Finally did it. And surprisingly loved it! The specifics of the recipe aren’t as important, it was a definite kitchen sink approach, but glad to find a new grain to play with.
  • JH made some seared tuna steaks after our fish market trip (more on that later) that were outrageous. She served them with some soy, ginger, sesame, wasabi sauciness… Awesome. Plus an Asian cole slaw on the side that might have changed my opinion about cole slaw forever. Seriously.
  • Cod steamed on the grill with capers, dill and lemon, also procured at the fish market, see above. Never ceases to amaze me how buttery cod can be without the slightest bit of actual butter added. Awesome. And another caper-obsession fueled dinner.
  • Have had bbq ribs (cooked by others) twice in the last two weeks. I’d forgotten how awesome they can be. Messy and a bit carnal, but delicious. One set was wet, one dry. I know bbq purists tend to favor one over the other depending on their personal style, but I have to say I love both. The dry rub on the most recent set was amazing, and even better the next day. And the ribs done with sauce were also great.
  • IAG rolled fresh picked peaches and goat cheese in chicken. And grilled it. Enough said.
  • Got my fill of Country Market pies on vacation with the whole fam at the beach. They’re an institution in our family. Strawberry rhubarb, peach, berry. If I could make a pie crust half this good I’d be a very happy girl.

Vermont Cheese

The travel listicle below made me miss Vermont. A lot. It's a National Geographic Traveler article about the VT Cheese Trail! Brilliant.... Although I would definitely argue that they left some fantastic artisanal cheese makers from the southern end of the state off. Taylor Farm maple smoked gouda, made in Londonderry, changed my life, or at least my stance on gouda cheese. And some of the early farm cheeses from the Major Farm in Westminster West (which is now the Vermont Shepherd Farm) that were sold at the Putney co-op inducted me into the wonders of earthy cheeses.

Vermont's a wonderful place, with a well entrenched local, sustainable food community. It's nice to see it get some attention, although the Vermonter in me has an inherent mistrust of any increase in tourism. That being said a lot of the local purveyors and business men depend on visitors, so here's the link.

Vermont Cheese Trail