I hope you are having a lovely holiday season! Hubs and I are so enjoying being with all the kids. There is truly nothing better. Once the kids leave, you relish any time you spend with them! We had the best visit with my family on Long Island and now we are in Utah with Hubs’s family. I will pray for good snow but mild temps! I’m such a wimp. If you want a super impressive and delicious main dish for a night in or for a New Year’s dinner, I have you covered. I served this Mushroom Wellington at a dinner party last year, and I couldn’t believe how everyone went crazy for it – even the carnivores!Continue reading
Do you remember the Dunkin Donuts commercial from the ’80s, where the guy wakes up super early in the morning every day and says, “time to make the donuts” ? That’s how I felt yesterday morning when I stumbled out of bed as the sun came up because it was “time to make the lunches.” Oy. How is it that I love to cook, but I dread making school lunches?
This isn’t a post about school lunches though. I’ll still post my kids’ lunches once a week on Instagram and Facebook so we can all share ideas. I just can’t believe it’s the beginning of school and I have not eaten what I think is enough tomatoes! Or eggplant. Or peaches. So now I’m on a mission to eat as much summer produce as I can before it is gone. And the first day of school is my warning bell.
I saw a post on Instagram the other day asking who was excited for pumpkin season? Uh, not me. What’s the rush? I would be delighted to eat watermelon and plums for a bit longer thank you. I want to make more of this Lentil and Grilled Eggplant Salad. I taught this salad in a class last year and I became obsessed with it, making it for friends and family all summer long. It has many of my favorite foods like grilled eggplant, which is much better than eggplant cooked any other way, in my opinion; hearty, protein-rich lentils, which are my favorite vegetarian protein source (Mr. Picky’s, too); and of course, the best of summer, ripe, juicy tomatoes.
I love the earthy, assertive flavors in this salad and especially the delicious, mustard-y vinaigrette. Dijon and lentils are great pals. This would be a perfect salad to bring to a Labor Day BBQ, especially if you don’t eat meat and make to ensure a vegetarian option. Or make this for dinner with something green on the side and you’re done. I’ve also added some goat cheese or feta for an extra salty bite. Many of my students like the precooked lentils from Trader Joe’s which would make this even easier to put together. Because I’m all about easy if it will make me cook something at home instead of getting take out. Gotta run — it’s already that time of day. Time to make dinner!
Place the lentils and the wine in a medium saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the wine has been absorbed.
Add the stock or water, onion and garlic to the saucepan with the lentils and bring to a boil over high heat, lower to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and reserve.
When the lentils are done, drain and pick out onion and garlic pieces and discard. Place lentils in the serving bowl and pour a tablespoon of the dressing onto the warm lentils and stir gently to combine. Reserve remaining dressing.
Turn your grill on to medium-high heat. Brush the eggplant and red onion with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill the eggplant and onion until tender and slightly charred (not burned).
Chop the grilled vegetables into bite-size pieces and add to the lentils. Add the chopped tomato, parsley leaves and walnuts.
Toss the salad with the remainder of the dressing and taste for salt. Serve warm or room temperature.
Do you have a son younger than college age? Did you ever have one? Do you know that he probably doesn’t eat lunch at school? I know you pack him something wonderful and maybe he even helped pick it all out. But here’s the reality: if your school is like mine and permits recess as soon as the kids are “finished” with lunch, most boys are only focused on one thing. Playing ball. I have figured out that my son only eats what he can on the way to the field and leaves everything else in the lunchbox. He eats it all when he comes home, but he does NOT want to miss being picked for the better team or waste time sitting around eating when he can be doing his favorite thing in the world. Playing ball.
Mr. Picky is in second grade and this has been going on since he started elementary school and from what other moms tell me, it doesn’t end. So it was a big day in the Salzman household when Mr. Picky announced that he would like to take a thermos to school. Why? Did the state cut the budget for soccer balls? Not yet. Mr. Picky wanted a thermos so that he could take these lentils to school. For lunch. This is big, people. And the thermos came back empty.
It is not at all important to me why he likes lentils, only that they are an amazing source of low-fat protein and super high in fiber, so they keep him full for a long time and help stabilize his blood sugar. So I thought I would share this recipe with you just before Halloween since it is keeping in line with my strategy for the big night o’candy. I can’t/won’t forbid my kids from eating candy on Halloween. How unrealistic is that? (Rhetorical question. Very.) My strategy is to get them really full with a good dinner before they go out so that they have no room in their bellies for too much candy.
My mom used to make braised lentils which is kind of like making lentil soup, but with less liquid. Only she used to put a piece of pork or a smoked ham hock in the pot and it gave the lentils great flavor. I don’t eat pork, but I started adding smoked paprika to my lentils to give a similar smokiness and it’s delicious. Mr. Picky says it tastes like there’s a hot dog in there. In fact, that wouldn’t be a bad idea to put a (nitrate-free) hot dog in the pot to persuade your kids to try lentils. Just a thought. I very often make them as a vegetarian dish since they have so much protein, but here I served them with my answer to fast food — Applegate Farms (Precooked) Organic Chicken and Turkey Sausages. No matter how busy you are, I am sure you aren’t too busy to warm up these sausages. I bake them, which is so much easier than cooking them in a skillet and having to clean up any splattering on the stovetop. But the best part is that there are no spooky ingredients to worry about!
Smoky Braised Lentils with (or without) Turkey Sausages
1 Tablespoon unrefined olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2-3 teaspoons smoked paprika (Spice Hunter is a good, easy-to-find brand. Spicely Organic has no flavor.)
1 cup organic black or French lentils* (sorted and rinsed)
1 sprig fresh thyme (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt (+ ½ teaspoon if you don’t cook sausages with lentils)
2 ½ cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 packages precooked Applegate Farms Sweet Italian or Chicken Apple sausages (4/package)
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until tender and translucent, about 8 minutes.
Add the carrots, garlic and paprika. Cook for 2 more minutes.
Add the lentils, thyme, salt and water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes** or until lentils are tender. Halfway during the cooking process, preheat the oven to 350.
Bake sausages on a baking sheet until heated through, about 15-20 minutes. Slice into thirds and serve with the lentils. Or alternatively, cut the sausages in half or thirds and add to lentils halfway through cooking lentils and heat sausages through.
If lentils seem too liquidy, simmer a little longer uncovered. Taste lentils and season with salt and pepper as needed.
*There seems to be a wide variety of lentil cooking times. 365 Brand takes about 30 minutes, but I have used some imported varieties that take up to 50 minutes.