Monday, July 24, 2017

Curry Lime Lentil Salad

Yikes! I just realized I was in danger of getting to the end of July without talking to you about anything new. I’ve been doing a lot of tossing fresh things together to make some pretty good dishes, but it’s been hard to quantify ingredients and turn things into recipes. Until I get some time to figure out how to narrate such things, I’ll tell you about a simple salad about which I actually wrote down some facts while I was working.

This was based on a really great looking recipe in Annie Somerville’s Fieldsof Greens, which has been around for a while, but has still been sadly under-explored by this particular home cook. Anyway, I didn’t have everything I needed to make this salad as published, and I had some other things that were more convenient (such as a commercial curry powder blend instead of a custom blend of spices).

This salad may be a bit homely to look at, but it’s packed with zesty flavor. I made mine a bit spicy with ¼ teaspoon of cayenne, but you can add or subtract making it as intense as you like. I loved the cooling yogurt and lime against the curry and cayenne, and, since the lentils are small, there was plenty of room for the dressing to coat them. I used a full-fat plain yogurt, but I think a reduced fat version might be okay too.

My own improvisation of this salad based on what was in my pantry and refrigerator is proof that there’s a lot of wiggle room when it comes to adding vegetables. Finely diced bell peppers would be great. Cucumbers might be good, too, as would green onions or chives. I even think that if you don’t groove on curry, you could come up with your own spice or herb combinations to suit your taste and make something great.

Lentil Salad with Curry Lime Yogurt Dressing
Based on a recipe in Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville

I used small green lentils to make this salad, which I recommend because they keep their shape well when cooked.

1 ½ cup dry lentils
1 medium-size carrot, peeled and shredded
½ cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup plain yogurt
Juice and zest of 1 medium-size lime
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 ½ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover generously with cold water. Bring to a boil. Simmer until the lentils are tender. Drain and place the lentils in a large bowl and cool.

2. Add the carrot and onion to the lentils.

3. To make the dressing, combined the yogurt, lime juice and zest, salt, curry powder, and cayenne. Stir together.

4. Stir the dressing into the lentil mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Another recipe like this one: Curry Chutney Egg Salad

One year ago: Gumdrop Cookies

Monday, June 12, 2017

Asparagus Flatbread

My cooking dreams are loaded with recipes like this one. All homemade. Somewhat sophisticated. At least a little gourmet. Sometimes it’s tough for me to make even such a small dream into a reality, since, just like everybody else, my time and physical energy aren’t always up to task. Time and energy managed to conspire in my favor last week, however, and I got a lovely Asparagus Flatbread with Aged Gouda and Hazelnuts onto the dinner table. And it was so good!

Part of my success was due to applying a bit of efficiency to my overwhelming recipe wish list. There were two recipes on it calling for shaved asparagus. One was the asparagus pizza recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The other was a salad recipe from Fine Cooking magazine. I wanted to try out the concept of an asparagus pizza, but I also wanted to sample the flavors in the salad, and so I combined the two recipes.

My inspiration recipes directed the cook to shave asparagus spears with a vegetable peeler, but mine wasn’t effective enough (or I wasn’t patient enough), so I simply cut my asparagus into long, thin strips using a knife. I did the same with a couple of scallions. I used my usual Whole Wheat Pizza Crust dough as my flatbread base, (You can use what you like or find convenient.) and I put a thin layer of mozzarella on that, which not only tastes great, but also helps hold everything together. On top of that went the “shaved” asparagus and scallion, which I then sprinkled with some toasted and skinned hazelnuts.

After this flatbread was baked, I shaved some deliciously nutty aged Gouda cheese over it all. This time, I did use a vegetable peeler, which was great for the job. The aged Gouda melted just right over the still-hot flatbread. It’s what it did for the flavor of this dish that’s really exciting, though. It’s rich sharpness and nuttiness go so well with the asparagus, and help tie it to the dark and toasty goodness of the hazelnuts.

Roasted asparagus, aged Gouda and hazelnuts really make a fabulous flavor combination. That being said, other nuts and cheeses might be good here, too, such as almonds or walnuts with shaved Gruyere or Parmesan. I also think a light drizzle of roasted hazelnut oil or even good olive oil would be pretty fabulous.

I don’t really know who might agree or disagree with my personal nomenclature when it comes to pizza, topped flatbread, focaccia, and such. I like to think of pizza as a crust with a sauce, usually tomato-based, a pretty good shower of mozzarella cheese, and may be some other good, melty cheeses, and then some vegetable and/or meat toppings. A common American Friday or Saturday night thing. This asparagus-based dish with no sauce and less cheese fits into my “topped flatbread” category, so that’s what I’m going to call it. I’m also going to call it delicious. And I’m really hoping to call it over for dinner again soon!

Asparagus Flatbread with Aged Gouda and Hazelnuts

1 recipe Whole Wheat Pizza Crust dough, left to rise overnight in the refrigerator or for several hours at room temperature

½ pound asparagus spears
2 scallions
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup hazelnuts roasted, peeled (as demonstrated in this post), and chopped
½ cup shaved aged Gouda cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Return the dough to room temperature if it has been refrigerated. This could take a few hours.

2. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. On the lined baking sheet, stretch or pat out the dough into a rough rectangle, about 8 x 14 inches. Cover with a towel and let rest while completing the rest of the recipe.

3. Cut the asparagus into long, very thin strips, or shave with a vegetable peeler. Cut the scallions similarly.

4. Distribute the mozzarella cheese over the dough. Cover evenly with the asparagus and scallions. Sprinkle the hazelnuts evenly over the top.

5. Bake at 450 F for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the asparagus has softened and browned in places. Remove from the oven and distribute the aged Gouda over the top. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Let stand until the aged Gouda has melted. Cut into squares and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.