I know I've been harping on the weather a bit lately, but ... I'm optimistic this will be my last real wintry recipe. I am so ready for artichokes, spring peas, and ramps, but until it gets a little warmer outside I'm braising. Lentils.
Braising is one of my favorite words in the culinary vocabulary. I love everything about it. I love what it stands for, I love to braise foods, and I love to eat braised foods. It's one of the laziest methods of cooking, and yet produces some of the most flavorful results.
When you hear the word braise, the first thing that might come to mind is meat. But not here, not today. Today we're braising lentils. Because braised lentils are delicious. They get the same amount of love and red wine that anything else that is braised would get. With a slightly healthier result.
I was inspired to braise lentils after reading Melissa's Clark recipe for braised beans in dining section of the New York Times. It sounded like such a warm, hearty, good wintry dish, and when I made her braised beans and they definitely hit all of those notes. Then I tried a version with black lentils that were just as satisfying, and a little easier to prepare in a pinch since black lentils do not need to be soaked.
To make this a complete meal that would satisfy the gamut from vegans to carnivores, they needed a little something more. A dense pieces of grilled polenta to soak up all the delicious braising juices does the trick. Some kale or spinach as the base adds some bite and some green. I cannot think of a more satisfying and complete dinner for a chilly evening.
Yes. I am sharing two salads with you in a row.
You see, there is something I have to tell you ... salads are my thing. My speciality. My jam.
I know, It is not exactly the most exciting thing in the world.
Some people are really good at making awesome, fancy things like creme brulee or pot pie. I am really good at making salads.
I always wanted to be really good at making one thing. You know, so Bobby Flay would come knocking on my door to do a throwdown. Being the veggie lover that I am, I guess it was natural that salads became my thing. I'm ready for my salad throwdown Bobby. Bring it.
You might be thinking, what's so special about making salads? Isn't making salads really easy. Well, yes, it is. But anyone who is really good at making one thing puts a lot of love into making that one thing.
I put a lot of love into my salads.
I love to make my own dressing, I love to incorporate a good balance of ingredients, I love to use only what's fresh and seasonal, and I love to add unexpected things.
It's all about the love and the ingredients.
As always, whenever I post a salad recipe, I like to think of it more as a guideline or an inspiration for your own salad creations. If you've never used sautéed fennel in a salad, maybe you will try it sometime. If you've only had ginger dressing at a japanese restaurant, maybe now you'll be tempted to make your own at home.
Or maybe you will try this just as I made it. I sure hope you do.