It’s the last few days before school starts back up—in-service, at least—which means my brain is ceding territory that has, up to this point, been reserved for the book project I’ve been lucky enough to spend the summer working on. In creeps thoughts of the classes I’ll be teaching this year, how I want to structure and improve them, new approaches I want to try, goals for myself and my students. Because I am someone who thinks in academic calendar years (2016-2017), this is a season of scheduling, making sure all of the dates are written down and cross-posted, birthdays and play dates and travel dates accounted for.
This is preparatory time, and that extends to food, too; things are about to get really busy around here, and I know myself well enough to know that it makes a huge difference in my sanity and overall health to have easy, appealing options in the fridge, ready to go. (And conversely, *not* to have certain other things around that I am not-so-great at resisting, particularly when I am in a rush or stressed.)
Hence this humble little lentil salad. My mom served it to me a few weeks ago, and I immediately asked for the recipe—it couldn’t be simpler, but is definitely more than the sum of its parts and keeps beautifully in the fridge. I love pairing it with muhammara dip, another current fridge staple, some cheese and crudités for a light lunch. There’s a recipe for muhammara on this blog, but these days I’ve been using Heidi Swanson’s recipe over at 101 Cookbooks, with a few tweaks. First, I add an onion in along with the red peppers—I love the sweetness it brings. Second, instead of roasting the peppers, as Heidi suggests, or leaving them raw, as my old recipe calls for, I cut them (and the onion) up into chunks, drizzle them with olive oil, and place them under a low broiler until they become blackened in places. This way you get char and softness without having to spend a lot of time prepping or heating up your oven. If you have a gas stove, you could certainly char the veggies over one of your burners instead.
Another thing I’ve been doing, inspired by Heidi, is making fresh turmeric-infused honey to keep on hand for sweetening teas, both cold and iced. I grate fresh turmeric with a microplane into a mortar filled with local honey, add a few cracks of black pepper and a generous pinch of cardamom, then bash it all together. It’s a really delicious, different flavor profile, and since turmeric has been touted forever by my people as a treatment for inflammation, I figure it can’t hurt.
Other recipes I wanted to share—and I realize we are getting into “hodgepodge post” territory now—were a few of the things I made for Shiv’s birthday party in July that were super well-received:
-Boozy Arnold Palmers, which I made using this Serious Eats recipe. Seriously worth what may seem like extra-fussy steps, and actually very easy to do for a party because you prep it all ahead of time. I doubled the recipe as written here, then added 2 cups of bourbon. Yeehaw! I could have easily made more than I did, because it disappeared *fast*. It bears mentioning here that I trust Serious Eats recipes to be well-tested and reliably delicious, which is why I went for this one. We also have this pepperoni pizza currently on heavy rotation. Even with store-bought sauce, it tastes like the roller-skating rink pizza of my nostalgic childhood dreams.
-Watermelon aguas frescas, for the kiddos (and also non-imbibing grownups). I did this last year, and it couldn’t be easier: you process big chunks of watermelon in the blender, adding some lime juice and simple syrup to taste. Strain to remove any seeds, DONE. You can make this ahead of time, too, just know you’ll need to shake/stir the liquid before serving.
–Lemon-glazed madeleines! Shiv has long favored this cookie, and is also fond of the children’s book character of similar name (“To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said ‘Pooh-pooh.’”) If you read too many madeleine recipes on the internet, you’ll scare yourself into thinking you can’t pull them off, but thanks to the encouragement of Stella Parks, who is probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered on Twitter and a fountain of pastry chef knowledge, I talked myself into tackling them. Shiv helped—cracking the eggs and learning to fold gently, gently—and, even with the chaos of party day, our madeleines came out just fine. Now that I know that they aren’t the bogey-man everyone says, I plan on trying other versions, like maybe a pistachio and also a chocolate? Just know that you need a little lead time to freeze your molds and chill your batter so that your cookies will puff prettily. They’re best eaten the same day, and that wasn’t a problem for us—ours disappeared so quickly that there wasn’t a single one leftover.
SUMMER LENTIL SALAD
2 quarts water, chicken stock, or vegetable broth
2 cups green lentils
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar (or substitute red wine vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
Combine lentils and liquid; bring to a boil. Cook until the lentils are tender; drain. While the lentils are cooking, combine the onions, celery, & wet ingredients in a large (non-metal) bowl. Add the lentils and toss to combine. Taste & add salt + pepper as desired.
Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving; the salad will become more flavorful over time.