Summer lentil salad extravaganza

When you find yourself with lovely local lettuce in early summer, and perhaps some leftover grilled chicken, cook up some Puy lentils and assemble a main course salad, great for a crowd. Pomegranate molasses adds a new flavor element to sherry vinaigrette brightened with lemon zest and juice.

Ingredients:
Stewed puy lentils, chilled
Chicken or vegetable stock for cooking lentils
Sherry shallot vinaigrette with shallots macerated in apple cider vinegar, lemon zest & juice, walnut & olive oil, sugar and pomegranate molasses
Leftover chicken, sliced thick or hard boiled eggs or boiled chilled shrimp (omit cheese)
Canned artichoke hearts and bottled roasted peppers, drained and rinsed.
Toasted walnuts (1 c), broken up when cool.
Little turnips, carrots sliced on mandoline
fresh herbs, minced — parsley and chives, at a minimum

Directions:

Cook lentils: Sauté diced carrots, celery, shallot in large saucepan. Add 1 t cumin, crumbled, ground pepper, and less than 1 t dried thyme, crumbled. When done, stir in chopped garlic and cook for one minute.
Stir in 1-1/2 c puy lentils, picked over and rinsed. Turn up heat and add stock to more than cover. Bring to a simmer and cook at least partially covered 20-30 minutes until barely tender — don’t let get mushy. Drain and chill.
Toast 1 c. walnuts in 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes until fragrant. Let cool, then break up a bit.
Heat olive oil in small sauce pan, add couple garlic cloves cut in half and cook for a couple minutes until slightly browned and aromatic. Remove from heat and let sit.
Drain and rinse artichoke hearts; put on towel and blot dry. Put in bowl and pour garlic oil over them, adding more oil as needed.
Make vinaigrette: minced shallot and apple cider vinegar to macerate 15+ minutes. Lemon zest, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, walnut oil, olive oil, dash sugar (or honey) and 1-2 t pomegranate molasses, S&P. Taste and adjust acid, salt and sweetness as needed. Using a lettuce leaf is a good method of tasting.
When lentils are cool (or brought to room temp if cooked in advance), toss liberally with vinaigrette. Salt as needed.
Mince fresh herbs such as parsley and chives. Mix into lentils with walnuts.
Wash and spin dry lettuce leaves.
Clean turnips and cut thinly on mandoline with carrots and parmesan, if using. Cover and refrigerate to wait for salad assembly.

Assembly:
Lay lettuce leaves around outside of platter. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Dump dressed lentils in center. Top with chicken, artichokes and peppers. Sprinkle on coarsely broken up turnips, etc.

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Summer coleslaw

There are many ways of making coleslaw. Almost too many that it had me perplexed and shy about plunging in.  There’s high fat with mayonnaise, mayonnaise and sour cream and/or buttermilk. And celery salt, mustard seeds and dry mustard. Add in some chopped spring onions, celery and/or red pepper. Here’s a creamy version (I prefer Bragg’s apple cider vinegar which adds flavor in addition to just acid.)  Here’s another.

Or make a vinaigrette type, perhaps with lime, cilantro and Serrano peppers. Or try this one.

I was perplexed about which way to go and then last night just plunged in when I had some oysters to fry for dinner. I mixed up some mayonnaise and sour cream (half and half is too much sour cream, I learned), mustard seed, plenty of celery seed, dry mustard, and S&P. I sliced half a head of a farmers market green cabbage, and ran a carrot through the food processor. Mixed together and put in refrigerator for half an hour while I fried some oysters. Coleslaw is good to counterbalance fatty, rich meat-type foods.

Next time I think I will use buttermilk to cut the mayo and no sour cream; add some apple cider vinegar and perhaps just a touch of sugar for balance.

Any way you do it, it will most likely be more flavorful than the sorry flaccid stuff served in tablespoon-size paper dishes at diners. Next time I’m going to experiment with buttermilk.

If you have time you can soak the cabbage for an hour. Or salt it(!) and let liquid drain, which – like cucumbers – makes the cabbage stay crisp in the liquid of the salad.

Stuffed mushrooms — appetizers for party!

There are a lot of stuffed mushrooms recipes out there, and they are rightly popular.  Similar to deviled eggs, they are always a welcome sight at parties.  They consist of sautéed chopped mushrooms stems (and extra caps, if you have them), breadcrumbs, garlic, parmesan, parsley, and I like sausage.  To bind everything, I successfully used cream cheese, and did not load up on bread crumbs.  I added an egg yolk, ’cause we were already down the high cholesterol road what with the sausage and cream cheese, might as well go whole hog.

Ingredients:

crimini mushrooms — 3- 10 oz packages, or thereabouts

italian sausage links — about 3 chubby ones, removed from casing, and CHOPPED

fresh thyme

bread crumbs — about 1/3 c

parmesan — about 1/4 c

garlic — 3-5 cloves, minced

olive oil

fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced

cream cheese — about 4 oz (I prefer Philadelphia brand), full fat

1 egg yolk

Directions:

  1. Prepare mushrooms by rinsing, and divide stems from caps, trimming off bottoms of stems.  Keep stems separate from caps.  If you have some extra mushrooms, chop them too.
  2. Sauté sausage, perhaps in some olive oil, if needed.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Sauté mushrooms, fresh thyme sprigs, and garlic.  When done, remove thyme sprigs (which should have shed their leaves into the cooked mushrooms). Return sausage to pan, or put all into another bowl.
  4. Mix in: bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, S&P, and about 1/2 large package cream cheese, and 1 egg yolk. (or save some parsley to sprinkle on top of cooked mushrooms after oven baking).
  5. Mix and refrigerate up to 1 day. Refrigerate caps separately.
  6. Before your party, remove mushrooms and filling to come to room temp.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Place mushroom caps on baking sheet, perhaps with a bit of olive oil on the bottom and as you place caps on tray, rub a little olive oil onto what will now become their bottoms, (or toss them in bowl with a bit of olive oil) and place on baking tray.
  8. Stuff mushrooms with filling, and bake about 15 minutes or until they look done.  With this large quantity, I baked in two batches so that they could stay hot.

Just try to get them all to the serving dish! If your party is like mine, people will be standing waiting for them to be removed from the oven.

Let me know YOUR favorite stuffed mushroom technique!