The right idea

December 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

salad

One weekend morning when I was 10 or 11, or maybe it was summer, I got this idea in my head that I should be eating more virtuously. This resolution was prompted by nothing that I can recall. No one had pinched any lingering baby fat (I didn’t have any); my mother had not embarked on a grapefruit cleanse; my aunt had not yet sounded alarms on the perils of dietary fat, which would see me into untold boxes of Snackwells and ascetic, calorie-counted meals for years to come. I imagine with a memory less stingy, I could find some precursive influence for this day’s whim. But from here, it looks like a first-ditch grasp at a sense of purity and cleanliness that I have continued to pursue, however intermittently (and however interrupted by a range of thoroughly counterproductive behaviors, mostly boozy ones) ever since.

That day, I prepared my 80s suburban preteen notion of a spa lunch: a bowl of cottage cheese, a bowl of honey (the bowl of honey approximately the same size as the bowl of cottage cheese), some fruit. I made my place at the table. I picked at everything for minutes before reconsideration, disinterest, and a little disappointment settled in. I took my dishes to the sink, hoping their untouched-ness would go unnoticed, and I made myself a cheese sandwich. This lifestyle change, it should be noted, endured for approximately one afternoon.

Two decades-plus later, I have, I think it’s fair to say, a much better sense of appropriate composition in meal-making. But I am still captivated by the idea of food as nourishment—as something not only sustaining, but also healing, rejuvenating, invigorating. What I cook, what I eat, any given meal, is largely dictated by pleasure (and I think, really, pleasure is part of the nourishment of eating). That it should be nourishing has become less an active consideration of my cooking than a foundation of it. Still, there are days when I crave something more. For me, damage control restorative leans toward the raw, the minimally fussed with, with extra points for foods bustling with living things, like fermented black radishes, sauerkraut, unpasteurized kefir. Or, increasingly, sprouts, which is what I had waiting in the fridge when T. and I came home last week from visiting with my parents and siblings in South Carolina. It was a visit full of laughter and conversation and love and sharing, but it was also, despite arguably reasonable meal-planning, five days of just a little too much of everything delightful in gastronomic vice, including a pile of pecans I cracked and shoveled into my mouth, standing at the kitchen counter at midnight, in a moonshine-addled haze.

The day after we got home, I sought amends in this salad, a heap of peppery arugula and earthy rye sprouts, slicked with a lemon-shallot dressing and showered with chopped toasted almonds, with slender wedges of dense, creamy roasted sweet potato tucked here and there. It was perfect and, I think, the sort of thing I was really after when the cottage cheese and honey came to mind so many years ago. Virtue may be elusive, but when it is this delicious I suppose I don’t mind chasing after it.

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Arugula and sprouted rye with toasted almonds, roasted sweet potatoes, and a lemon-shallot dressing

2 cups young arugula

1/4-1/3 cup sprouted rye (instructions below; allow two days for sprouting)

1 medium sweet potato

2 teaspoons olive oil

small handful of raw almonds, toasted in a skillet and roughly chopped

Lemon-shallot dressing:

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into irregular wedges. Toss with two teaspoons of olive oil (or more, if you want extra insurance against sticking), salt and pepper to taste (I do this right on the baking sheet), and roast, tossing occasionally with a metal spatula, for 20-30 minutes, until golden, lightly crisp, and tender within.

In a small bowl, combine the shallot with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt; set aside for 10 minutes or so. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Using your hands, gently toss the arugula, the sprouts, and half the almonds with enough of the dressing to coat lightly, and taste again for salt and pepper. Arrange the arugula on a plate, scatter the remaining almonds over the top, and distribute the sweet potatoes here and there and everywhere. Drizzle any remaining dressing over the top of it all if it doesn’t seem like overkill. If you have some excellent rye bread handy and you’re on the hungry side, it would be a wise accompaniment.

Serves 1, generously

For the sprouted rye:

Soak however many rye berries you want to sprout in water to cover by twice as much, for 24 hours. Drain them, then let them continue to drain, in the jar, for 8 hours, covered with something like a cloth napkin or cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. Keep the jar laying sideways tilted at a slight angle, with the top of the jar on a plate to catch any water that continues to drain out. Rinse the sprouts and drain them again, as before, for 4-6 hours, and repeat as necessary until the grains begin to sprout. They’ll last several days in the fridge.

And! If you want to try making rejuvelac, my new favorite health-geek drink of the moment, you’re already halfway there. Using four parts water for each part rye, soak the sprouts in filtered water to cover for 2 days, then decant. You should be able to get one more batch out of your sprouts, but the second round will need just one day of soaking. It should be peculiar smelling but compelling, like… Epoisses? I store mine in glass jars in the fridge and sweeten them with a bit of cider or lemon nectar or honey. I’m sure you can come up with something more creative.

Lunch for the lazy

December 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

I am swearing at the sun right now. For scattering the clouds, for brightening the dim that was giving me permission to stay inside all day. It’s 50 degrees here today, still, pretty. And it is begging to be noticed. I’m telling you, these anomalous winter days are so demanding, so needy. You cannot ignore a day like this and get away with it without lugging a guilt trip behind you.  Probably I should be grateful for a break from chill, the necessity of wearing a coat, which is doubly a nuisance because I am not in possession of a proper one—a relic from living in the South for so many years. Instead, I’m annoyed. Ordinarily it’s a difficult thing for me, sitting still, like something always pulling my interests in some direction or another. But cloudy days are a kind of moderator. Like a dance class, or a long run, or Xanax a really great back rub. They channel focus in me, or enable it, if all in their own varied ways.

I think, if I ever move to Seattle, as I’ve been promising to do since 1994, I will be a much less fidgety person (I can hope, of course). In the meantime, my sister has been admonishing me to meditate, and because she is wiser than I am, despite the edge I have on her in years, I’m thinking about taking her up on it. And for those days when I’d like my cooking not to ask a lot of me (because I think that’s reasonable when I’m not asking a lot of the day), I’m going to keep salads like this one around, which offer immense returns in flavor for minimum effort, and keep a person from feeling slothish while doing as physically little as possible. Magic.

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I was a little reluctant to write about this salad, because even if we haven’t all tired of raw kale salads (can you?), some of us may be tiring of hearing exultations from every corner of the food world about how amazing they are. And still… so I’m taking my nose down and joining the chorus. Sorry.

I have more loved and adored variations on raw kale salad than I can count. This one, published in the New York Times five years ago, is the one that turned me on to kale salad to begin with. It’s showered with pecorino and breadcrumbs, tart with lemon, and still one of my favorites. Since then, in the interest of sharing with vegan T. and because I like to make things difficult, I worked up a version with crushed almonds and garlic that approximates the effects of pecornio in a really bizarre, terrific way. I’ll write about it here one of these days if I think this blog can handle another raw kale salad post. Then I ran across this piece, which gave me a few more ideas I may or may not have needed, but am glad to have. The Northern Spy contribution reprinted from Food 52 gives the NYT recipe a run for it.

Today’s version takes advantage of one of the only things I bother putting up in the summer, which is to say, pickled eggplant. I don’t have a garden, so without forced surplus of any one vegetable or another and year-round access to local produce (the mid-Atlantic is kind in this way), I’m rarely inclined to spend hours bottling anything up for seasons ahead. Except, as I said, for this pickled eggplant, which I have been making every summer since my friend K., a local farmer and pickling genius, gifted me with a jar and the recipe. The eggplant is boiled briefly in vinegar, then drained and packed in oil, along with coriander seeds and hot chiles. Those turns in vinegar and oil nudge the eggplant—already nutty and sweet—toward something almost buttery, with an almost startling brightness. And its texture… dense, creamy—you know you shouldn’t stand over the cutting board eating it off a fork (it is packed in oil, after all), but it really can’t be helped.

Its brilliance is in how versatile it is, and how easily it escorts you to something delicious. There are those days—tired, without so much culinary industry—and isn’t it cruel? those are the days you need something really marvelous-tasting most of all. That’s why I love this pickled eggplant. It’s a sauce for pasta or a salad of wheatberries, it’s a spread for grilled bread. Generally it will keep boring way, far away from your food, even when you’re not good for much in the kitchen. This salad is one of its beneficiaries, the packing oil—already tasting of vinegar—used as the dressing, rich bits of the eggplant strewn throughout. Golden raisins and toasted pine nuts accentuate everything nutty and sweet in the eggplant, and it takes you longer to finish the thing that it did to make it. Here, that never happens.

Anyway, the sun is out. I guess I’ll go for a walk.

Raw kale salad with pickled eggplant, toasted pine nuts and golden raisins

Obviously this recipe is not of ideal use if you don’t have pickled eggplant (recipe below) on hand. Remember, remember, next summer! In the meantime, if you have any good pickled anything in olive oil, you might substitute for the eggplant called for here.

Wash and dry (or don’t, eek! Sometimes I am really lazy) about 1/2 bunch of kale, preferably lacinato/cavolo nero/toscano. Make sure it’s totally dry, and cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick ribbons. Work about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil the eggplant was packed in into the kale with your hands to coat it completely. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. At this point the kale can rest for a bit, 30 minutes to an hour, even. Toast a tablespoon or two of pine nuts until they’re fragrant, chop up a few pieces of pickled eggplant (so that you end up with about 1/4-1/3 cup), and toss them both in with the kale, along with a tablespoon or so of golden raisins (I prefer those little straw-colored Hunza raisins, but whatever you like). Serve with good, crusty bread. If you have any really delicious crackers lying around, those would be nice, too. Or you could just shower the whole thing with olive-oil toasted breadcrumbs, but that’s not really lazy, is it?

Pickled eggplant

For future reference.

5-6 lb medium eggplants

1/3 cup coarse sea salt

6 cups white wine vinegar

about 4 cups olive oil

8 dried chiles

coriander seeds

Slice the eggplants into 1/2″ rounds and toss with salt. Spread out and weigh down, and allow to sweat for one hour.

In a stockpot, bring vinegar to a boil. Add eggplant, bring back to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Drain and pat dry. Pour 1/2 cup olive oil in each (sterilized) quart or pint jar. Add 1 tsp coriander seeds and 2 chiles to each. Add eggplant and top with more olive oil if needed. Allow to cool, then cover. Pickles will be ready to eat in one month.

*As long as the eggplant is covered with oil, it keeps forever at room temperature—at least a year. If you need to add more oil at a later date to keep it submerged, that’s fine.

Patience is a virtue

November 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

I am endeared to salads for many reasons, but particularly for their patience. They’re content to be put together slowly, without sudden movements; they tolerate interruption, like when the dogs demand to be taken out, now, or a thought, less tolerant, needs immediate writing down. They necessarily involve a lot of preparation—washing and drying and shredding and shaving and julienning and tearing into little bits—which gives me leave to think, or not think at all, either of which is generous and appreciated. Once they’re made, they wait to be photographed (unless they’re made up of arugula, in which case, they wait around about as well as pasta, which is to say not at all), and if they’re of something sturdy, like cabbage or kale, they don’t suffer for wilting, so you can take as damn long to finish them as you want. Salads are also easily made beautiful and wonderful tasting, and without much fuss, which is especially selling because every now and then (around here lately it is often), fuss amounts to little more than a nuisance.

This one, with ruffly-leaved napa or savoy cabbage at its core, is as comforting a dish to me as a steamy bowl of pasta with lentils or a bean and farro soup, but invigorating, too, with its pungent winter radishes and sweet carrots, gently spicy red onion, and whole leaves of parsley, cooling and tasting of everything good and green. It’s spritzed with lemon, then glossed with olive oil that’s been warmed through with mustard seeds and arbol chile, heated til the seeds start to pop and both have infused the oil with all kinds of toasted, nutty, faintly bitter spice. It’s one of the things I turn to when what I want to eat, all I want to eat, is a bunch of vegetables and not much more.

It’s gorgeous, too; did I mention? Which brings me to something else. There is something deeply satisfying, and quickly gratifying, about creating food with your hands, and your eyes, your nose, your ears even, that, once it’s made, appeals to all of those senses still. You are serving dual purposes of nourishment and pleasure, the entire process through. It’s a scintillating way about lunch, especially if you spend a lot of your hours doing, but not as much time creating, or a lot of time creating things with such long, demanding trajectories that the rewards for their realization are in perpetual states of dangling, or if you just wonder, sometimes, if what you spend much of your time doing has enough of a point. This is, for me, besides the obvious and essential practicality of it, one of the most compelling reasons to cook. It can’t always be more than getting food on the table, but even that simple act has a purpose. But when you’re able to be patient with the process, it can also be comfort, inspiration, optimism. Or if you think that’s too much to expect from your food: this salad is delicious and good for you and if you make it for friends they’ll fawn over its prettiness. Either way, it’s good to have around.

Frilly-leaved cabbage salad with radish, carrot, quinoa, and mustard seeds

The idea for this salad’s dressing was given to me by a lovely lady I work with occasionally at markets sometimes; let’s call her A., in which you warm mustard seeds in oil until they pop, and pour them, along with the oil, now nutty and fragrant, over shredded cabbage with a bit of rice vinegar and sea salt, some black pepper, and toss. I use this method as the basis for this salad, but include a hot chile along with the mustard seeds, and I often use lemon in lieu of vinegar, though the brown rice variety is very nice. On this day I added a little quinoa; sometimes I toss some tofu in, too. A little torn kale or tiny mustard greens in addition to the cabbage is especially lovely.

1 small napa or savoy cabbage (plus torn or shredded kale, or small mustard greens, if you like), shredded

1 carrot, julliened

2 watermelon radishes, cut or shaved into irregular pieces

a few sprigs of parsley, leaves only, but left whole

1 small red onion, thinly sliced on the vertical

2-3 teaspoons brown mustard seeds

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 dried arbol chiles, halved

half of a lemon

1/4 cup red quinoa, simmered with a pinch of salt and water to cover by an inch until tender, drained

sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper, to taste

Combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl, making sure everything is completely dry, so that your dressing doesn’t end up diluted. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the mustard seeds with the olive oil and the chiles over low-medium heat until the mustard seeds begin to pop, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly while you squeeze the lemon over the greens and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the salad and use your hands to toss everything together until everything’s well-coated and glossy. Taste again, re-season if necessary, and serve.

Serves 2

Alone in the kitchen with an eggplant

October 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

I hope Laurie Colwin would forgive the title. It was difficult not to borrow, being as I was the other day, alone in the kitchen with eggplants. Lavender and lilac-colored ones, slender, with sloping curves and taut skin, too svelte for words, almost. Sigh. I realize eggplant envy is a little weird and that perhaps I’m becoming too intimate with my food. (Although once, on a family vacation when I was younger, I made up names for everyone, firstname surnameisavegetable. I was Emily Eggplant, so obviously there is some kinship here.)

The truth is, much as I adore the looks of these elegant fruits, they always seem less suited to my usual eggplant purposes, which tend to appreciate fuller, more generously-figured varieties with a larger skin-to-flesh ratio. But still I gather them up, almost whenever I see them, because they are so exquisitely good looking. I think about how this time, I’m going to bake them whole, split not quite through and stuffed with something heady and fragrant, or use them for some lively, herby salad or another (like this one from the New York Times I bookmarked two months ago), or make the Vietnamese claypot eggplant I haven’t made in years but used to crave like clockwork. I bring them home, so full of potential, and still they find their way into ratatouille or any number of Sicilian pasta dishes I am compelled to run through before frost signs eggplant off for the year. Let me say, those dishes are all wonderful; there are reasons I keep after them. But eggplant is capable of so much more that I always end up feeling the littlest bit guilty imposing limits on it, as though by treating it just a few ways I’m stifling its repertoire. I am given to wanton immoderation, but there it is.

And then about a month ago, reading through Andrea Reusing’s wonderful Cooking in the Moment, my eyes locked on her recipe for eggplant salad with walnuts and garlic, and I knew I was going to make appropriate use of those eggplants for once, at least.

Reusing owns Lantern, a restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., where she uses glorious produce from the region’s profusion of small farms to illustrate a Southern-inflected, pan-Asian menu marked by much more cohesiveness and clarity than it sounds.

Her book offers glimpses of Lantern’s kitchen, but they are modest, secret-sharing ones. And she dispenses stories and personal anecdotes, but where they are occasionally sentimental, they are never gratuitous or self-indulgent. Instead they give you a start; suddenly you’re itching to shell peas or pay an on-farm visit to your favorite local grower, or cook with someone much older than you, or younger. Her text is honest and real, her recipes perfectly accessible, and the upshot is that, unlike so many other chef-authored cookbooks, this one works more, in the end, to inspire and instruct than impress.

I can vouch, at this point, for the simple goodness of her summer squash braised softly with butter, onions and basil; the spinach with melted leeks and cardamom; the pickled hot peppers, whose fiery vinegar bath, I can already tell, is going to rescue my winter cooking from doldrums with regularity these cold months ahead. But it’s this eggplant salad I want to write about, because it’s the thing I’ve kept returning to again and again, and I’m not in the habit of settling. In it, slender eggplants are quartered, steamed until just tender, left to cool, and then tossed with a full-bodied dressing of lemon, olive oil, parsley, garlic, walnuts and hot chile. There is sublime contrast and balance here, flavors and textures egging each other on, but never too far. It is such a delectable, substantial salad that I’ve been eating it for lunch as it is, with some good bread and something else of salad kind, tomatoes, here, radishes there.

The other day I had the idea to add some minced onion to the dressing and use chopped peanuts in place of the walnuts. I served this round with an unruly-looking heap of the first gorgeous mustards of the season, a mix of purples and jades that were full of nutty, fiery spice. I worked a smashed garlic-lemon-olive oil dressing into those, too, which seems redundant next to the eggplant’s dressing, but those mustards are so bossy it didn’t taste that way.

So now, finishing this post, I’m seeing that it might seem terrifically ill-timed, with eggplant taking a bow right about now, making room for greens and squashes and cooler-weather everything. But if you think about it, doesn’t eggplant really deserve an encore? That’s what I’m thinking.

Eggplant salad with walnuts and garlic

Reprinted with permission, from Cooking in the Moment, by Andrea Reusing

8 small Japanese eggplants, about 6 inches long and 1 inch across

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon mild Anaheim chile flakes, less if using regular chile flakes

3/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and any loose skin rubbed off

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cut each eggplant in half crosswise into 3-inch-thick rounds and then quarter them lengthwise. In a vegetable steamer over medium-high heat, and in batches if necessary, steam the eggplant for 10 to 12 minutes, until it is tender but not yet falling apart. Let the eggplant cool on a plate, discarding any liquid that accumulates.

Mash the garlic and salt together into a smooth paste, using the side of a knife. Transfer the paste to a medium bowl and stir in the lemon juice, olive oil, and chile flakes. Coarsely chop the walnuts and add them. Add the parsley and eggplant, and mix well.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Vintage salad

August 25, 2012 § 1 Comment

I made this salad for the dressing. Also for the purslane, which is proliferating in the raised beds where my roommate’s tomato plants died, but mostly because I have fallen in with buttermilk-chive dressing, for the nth consecutive summer in a row, and I am finding a way to eat it with everything. Grilled okra. Seared okra. Tomato salads. Butter beans (I haven’t actually procured these yet, but I plan to, and I plan to eat them with buttermilk-chive dressing). In truth, this is glorified Ranch dressing—at least from where I’m standing. Hidden Valley’s original version surely followed on the heels of buttermilk dressings made in home kitchens, but I grew up in the 80s, and my mom didn’t especially like to cook, so I knew the commercial varieties first. The dressing I make now is a throwback to this—the one salad dressing I really loved when I was a kid, the kind we made “from scratch” with mayonnaise, milk, and those packets of dehydrated onion, garlic, and crack (msg, really, but it’s a fine line, isn’t it?) Hidden Valley came out with in the 70s. I haven’t tasted that stuff in years, but I think my version—garlic pounded in a mortar and pestle, plus mayonnaise, buttermilk, chives and white pepper—is probably better and at least as good, and it’s a way for me to relish the flavors of the 80s without having to compromise on things like not buying salad dressing with a shelf-life.

Of course, in 1985, my mom would have served this dressing with a salad of iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, and tomato wedges. Sundays in the summer, when my dad would buy a steak to grill, it would have shared the plate with thin slices of sirloin, charred in spots and rosy in the middle, and a russet potato that had baked over the coals. I no longer eat meat, but I still remember the salty, tangy, smoky alchemy of steak with ranch dressing. I think I even dressed the potato with it in lieu of butter, sometimes.

The other day, after I’d crushed a clove of garlic in my little marble mortar, the one I use explicitly for grinding salt and spices and making dressing and aioli, because it’s really too small to be good for much of anything else, and I’d added the mayonnaise (store-bought, I confess) and whisked in the buttermilk and the minced chives and added just enough salt and pepper, I drizzled it over a mess of purslane, crunchy like iceberg lettuce, quartered sungold tomatoes, and ribbons of a quirky heirloom Italian squash called cucuzza that seems to aspire to be a cucumber. Since the 80s, since I’ve been cooking for myself, really, I’ve come to love more acidic dressings, vinaigrettes made with sherry vinegar, or Champagne vinegar, and most especially with shallots. I love them with red wine vinegar and dijon mustard. But this creamy, tangy, punchy dressing is the one that has my number.

I’m reminded of a section of Adam Gopnik’s marvelous The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food, in which he posits that despite our evolving palates, our increasing exposure and appeal to new and different foods, and different ways of cooking and eating and thinking about food, we always like the same foods we’ve always liked. I’m not sure I agree with him entirely. But here, in terms of buttermilk salad dressing, it works, at least for me. We change; our tastes do, too. But not really.

For buttermilk-chive dressing, pound 1 small clove of garlic with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. With a fork, stir in about 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise (preferably something with just a few ingredients, like Delouis, or your own), and 1 tablespoon buttermilk, more or less depending on the consistency you’re after (thinner if you’re using it as a dressing for lettuces, thicker if you’re using it for dipping). Add sea salt and fresh-cracked black or white pepper to taste, plus 2 teaspoons or so of minced chives. Double, triple, etc., as necessary. This makes enough for one dinner-plate sized salad or a couple of small ones.

For potatoes, with love

July 24, 2012 § 3 Comments

I’m in deep with potatoes right now. It’s not like me, really, to lose myself over potatoes, except for right now, this time of year. Summer potatoes, they really get you. It’s tricky to pass them up as it is, with their papery skins (oddly I can’t say what it is about those papery skins that’s compelling, but it’s something) and dusty, just-dug coats, but it’s when you taste them that you’re really finished. These potatoes are like velvet inside, creamy and dense and tasting like they’ve gorged themselves on butter, and the upshot is that as long as they’re in season, I’m eating as many of them as is reasonable. The trick is that I don’t have a ready potato mindset; as I said, aside from this sliver of potato eden, I can take them or leave them.

Three weeks in a row now, I’ve pursued potatoes with equal relentlessness, and despite a potato salad or two, a soup here or there, I have ended up with so many at the end of the week that I’ve resorted to sharing them with friends—each time a huge salad of potatoes, dressed in a celery leaf-parsley pesto, specked with bits of celery and garlic scapes, that everyone wanted the recipe for. You must already know I didn’t learn lessons from this.

Sunday I brought home two sorts from market—enough rose-colored French fingerlings, which I’ve been cooking for weeks now, to fill the good-sized scalloped bowl that sits in the center of my dining table, and another French fingerling called La Ratte, which I was so excited to see that I hung up moderation altogether and bought a 3-pound bag. This week is going to be different, I said. These potatoes are too brilliant to be fantasized about all week without actually making themselves on to my plate more than twice. I started with this:

Potato-lentil salad with celery, tomatoes, red onion and a light mayonnaise dressing:

1/2 pound potatoes, preferably a recently harvested fingerling variety

3 tablespoons black beluga lentils, simmered just until tender, and drained completely

1/2 small red spring onion, thinly sliced

1-2 stalks cutting celery, chopped

1 small-medium heirloom tomato, diced

1 tablespoon salt-cured capers, soaked in cold water for five minutes, then drained and roughly chopped

few sprigs parsley, finely minced

1 tablespoon mayonnaise (preferably your own or one with an ingredient list no longer than six items long: egg yolks, oil, salt, lemon, vinegar, and maybe mustard, not necessarily in that order)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, something buttery and maybe a little spicy, but not so peppery it scratches your throat; it’ll overwhelm things

1 teaspoon or so lemon juice

sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in a medium-sized pot-full of lightly salted water until easily pierced with the sharp tip of a knife, about 10-15 minutes. Keep testing them; if they’re underdone, they texture will be a bit chalky; if they’re overdone, they’ll start to fall apart, which is no good for potato salad. Drain them and rinse with cool water. When they’re cool enough to handle, slice them into halves (vertically is nice so more of the insides are coated with dressing) if they’re small enough, or quarters if they’re larger. Combine the cut potatoes in a bowl with the celery, onion, capers, lentils and most of the parsley. Leave the tomatoes aside for now.

In another smaller bowl (a ramekin is perfect), whisk the mayonnaise with the oil with a fork until blended completely. Add the lemon juice and whisk again. It shouldn’t be too thick; you’re looking for something with a consistency of heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper. I’m thinking in hindsight that a little dijon mustard would have been marvelous here, but it was so good as it was that it definitely didn’t need it.

Toss the dressing with the potatoes et al. until well combined. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as necessary. Gently fold in the tomatoes and serve, garnished with the remaining parsley. This comes out looking like a tremendous amount of potato salad. If you make it right, this won’t be a problem.

Serves 1.

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