Lentils, slow roasted tomatoes and goats cheese

Most of you would have heard the saying ‘you don’t make friends with salad.’ The underpinning sentiment being that salad is not worth eating. Personally, I try to avoid eating anything or anybody that I have made friends with. However, if we were ever to find ourselves in an extremely desperate survival type situation, who knows what may happen. (Having read the book ‘Alive’ based on the 1972 Andes flight disaster where sixteen survivors survived only by deciding to eat pieces of their dead friends, I have been forever haunted by the choices they made. Would I, wouldn’t I?)

Ponderings on cannibalism aside, salads these days are mega interesting and worthy of being elevated to ‘main course’ status. Yotam Ottolenghi, the British chef, cookery writer and TV presenter could easily be hailed as the ‘King Of Delicious and Fascinating Salads.’ Having been lucky enough to procure another smattering of delicious cherry tomatoes from the local Growers Markets, the idea of slow roasting them popped into my brain box. Trawling through my cookbooks I came across this salad from Ottolenghi’s book ‘Plenty’ and did a bit of re-jigging. The lentils have a toothsome nutty bite, the thyme perfumed tomatoes are unctuously sweet, the melting red wine vinegar onions and bright herbs add a zingy lift. The nuggets of goats cheese provide an extra creamy tart surprise.

Salad may not be ‘my friend’ but it is certainly a very tasty acquaintance.

LENTILS, SLOW ROASTED TOMATOES AND GOATS CHEESE

WHAT YOU NEED
1 small red Red onion, very finely sliced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
250g lentils (I used a french style fine green lentil from Mount Zero, Ottolenghi used castelluccio lentils or you could use French puy. The lentils need to hold their shape once cooked.)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tbl parsley, chopped
1 tbl oregano, chopped (note, Ottolenghi’s recipe used 3tbsp chervil or parsley, 3 tbsp chopped chives, 4 tbsp chopped dill but I didn’t have these so just made do with what I had)
80g goats cheese (or Gorgonzola, or feta)
Black pepper

Slow roasted tomatoes
400g mixed cherry tomatoes, washed
2 tbl olive oil
1 tbl caramelised balsamic vinegar
8 sprigs of thyme
Extra sea salt

HOW YOU DO IT
Start by making the slow roasted tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 100C. Place the cherry tomatoes and thyme sprigs onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with some salt and gently toss to coat. Roast for one hour, turning once or twice in that time.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven, discard the thyme and allow them to cool.
Meanwhile, place the red onion in a medium bowl, pour over the red wine vinegar and sprinkle with the salt. Stir, then leave the onions to soften.
Place the lentils in a pan of boiling water (the water should come three centimetres above the lentils) and cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender.
Drain the lentils in a sieve and whilst still warm, add them to the sliced red onion. Next, add the extra virgin olive oil, garlic and some black pepper. Stir to mix and leave aside to cool down.
Once cool, add the herbs and gently mix together. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
To serve, pile up the lentils on a large plate or bowl, integrating the goats cheese and tomatoes as you build up the pile. Drizzle the tomato cooking juices on top and serve.

A slight variation on a Yotam Otteolenghi recipe from ‘Plenty’ published by Edbury Press, 2010

Advertisements

Tomato, fennel and goats cheese salad

Inspiration, not unlike perspiration, happens unexpectedly and far more pleasantly. Whilst trawling our local Growers Markets, I happened upon some bulbs of baby fennel and trays of sunny yellow and dark red to the point of black, cherry tomatoes. The bloke on the stall informed me that the dark reds were named Black Russians. This romantic moniker instantly transported me to long gone days of Tsars, bejewelled Faberge eggs and Rasputin. All set against a backdrop of snow covered mulit-coloured Russian Orthodox churches. A far cry from the humid heat and slick sweat that was slowly rolling down between my shoulder blades. (Of course Tsarinas don’t perspire they gently ‘glow’ but I doubt that the Russian royalty of that era went veggie shopping under a blazing hot Aussie sun either.)

This unseasonably warm weather calls for salads and lots of ’em. My fridge coughed up a jar of the lovely marinated Meredith goats cheese feta. And so it was. Crunchy, finely sliced aniseed fennel, the sweet tartness of tomatoes, the creamy goaty tang of the cheese and the herbal zing of mint. Perfect for a bloody hot day and a dish fit for a Tsar or perhaps even a mad monk.

TOMATO, FENNEL AND FETA SALAD

WHAT YOU NEED
250g cherry tomatoes, I used a mix Black Russian and yellow
1 baby fennel bulb (or half a normal size bulb)
Juice of half a medium size lemon
3 tbl extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to season
50g goats cheese (if you don’t have or like goats cheese, a creamy feta cheese would be a great substitute)
1 tbl fresh chopped mint

HOW YOU DO IT
Wash the tomatoes, de-stalk and slice them in two.
Wash the fennel bulb, slice in half and take out the hard core in the middle. Using a mandolin, slice into fine slices. (The fennel that is, not your fingers.)
Place the tomatoes and sliced fennel on a platter or in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and add the lemon juice and olive oil.
Toss together and let this sit for 15 to 30 minutes to absorb the flavours.
Crumble the feta over the salad, scatter the mint and et voila!
Serves 2 very hungry people, could serve 4 alongside a lot of other dishes. I had it with a lemon pepper pork schnitzel. It was the bomb.

A Cheergerm take on a number of similar salad recipes


Ice-cream pants and an asparagus radish salad

Of late, there seems to have been much just cause and reason for celebratory eating. A good portion of this happy eating has included the devouring of some excellent ice-cream and gelato.

So much so, that this Cheergerm has been forced to coin the phrase ‘ice-cream pants’.

Definition: when ones trousers/waistbands/knickers/undies/jeans/skirts have become ‘ever so uncomfortably tight’ due to the over indulgence of delicious ice-cream. An example sentence would be:

‘Oh dear, I have ice-cream pants.’

One could be forgiven in thinking that you had spilt ice-cream on your pants. (Whilst this has been known to happen, it is a rare occurrence for the true connoisseur of ice-cream.)

In essence, when you experience the state of ‘ice-cream pants’, it simply means you have been eating a bit too much of the good stuff. It is an indication that you need to reign it in, just a tad.

To counter ice-cream pants, salads such as these will be thrown down my gob on a regular basis. I will also be exercising more and am about to set off on a walk, it will be a long one. A few days or so.

The Hornsby Market had the most divine bunches of Prince like purple asparagus and rosy red radishes. A brand new packet of lemony sumac spice was sitting in the pantry, crying out in its little sumac voice ‘eat me, eat me’. The crunchy, spicy radish goes beautifully with the earthy delicate asparagus and this zingy, sweet dressing. The purple asparagus loses a tad of it’s vibrancy when cooked but still tastes delicious.

ASPARAGUS AND RADISH SALAD

WHAT YOU NEED
2 bunches asparagus (I used purple), woody ends removed and trimmed into 5 cm pieces
4 medium radishes, sliced finely. (I did mine on a mandolin.)
Vinaigrette
2 tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 tbl white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsps honey
1 tsp sumac
1/4 tsp salt
Zest of one small lemon
Black pepper to taste

HOW YOU DO IT
Boil the asparagus in salted water for two minutes until just tender then immediately refresh the asparagus in cold iced water. Once the asparagus has cooled, drain well and pat dry.
Place asparagus and radish on a shallow platter or in a salad bowl.
Place the vinaigrette ingredients into a small bowl, whisk until combined and pour the mixture over the radish and asparagus. Toss the salad gently.
We ate this with the most awesome bowl of monster cold king prawns (well, the lads and I did) and a scrumptious potato salad.

Cooking Note: Sumac is a deep red, purple spice used mostly in Middle Eastern and Greek cooking. It has a tangy, lemony flavour. It is wonderful sprinkled over a plate of tomatoes or sliced avocado. It can also be used in a marinade or in a dressing, as is done here.

A slight Cheergerm adaptation of a recipe from the Taste of Home website. Link follows the photos.

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/radish-asparagus-salad#.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hornsby-Market/151427154911192?ref=ts&fref=ts