Our good friends, Marky and Ed Trinkle, gave Don and me a terrific French cookbook by Dori Greenspan, Around My French Table, for Christmas. I made a delicious supper using recipes from it. We had Lentil, Lemon and Tuna Salad, Corn Pancakes and Tomato and Pepper Salad.
The Basics: French Lentils
Makes 4 Servings
1 cup French green lentils
1 whole clove
1 small onion
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut in to 4-6 pieces
1 celery stalk, trimmed and cut in 4-6 pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
3 & 1/2 cups vegetable broth (chicken broth or water can be substituted)
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon Cognac or other brandy
1 shallot, finely chopped, rinsed and patted dry (optional)
French lentils are small and green. They take less time to cook than other lentils, and when you cook them, they don’t become mushy. If you cook them in broth instead of water, they take on a much deeper flavor.
Put the lentils in a strainer and rinse them under cold water. Look them over to make sure no rocks were missed when they were packed. Put the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover them with the broth. Press the clove into the onion and toss the onion, celery, garlic and bay leaf into the pan. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until the lentils are tender. As the lentils cook, skim off the solids that rise to the top. Stir the lentils periodically as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Add the Cognac, stir and continue cooking for a minute or two. Drain the lentils. Remove the vegetables and bay leaf. Finely chop the vegetables and return them to the lentils. Stir in the shallot if you are using it. Serve the lentils warm or at room temperature.
Lentil, Lemon and Tuna Salad
Serves 4 (main dish) or 6 (appetizer)
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
2 teaspoons black olive tapenade (store-bought is fine)
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups cooked lentils (using recipe above), preferably still warm
2 Tablespoons lemon juice plus the zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 5- to 6-ounce can of chunk light tuna, packed in oil (or packed in water, drained, then add 1 T olive oil to the tuna and stir to combine)
Salt and pepper
Using the basic lentil recipe above, cook the lentils. In a small bowl, stir together the mustard and tapenade. Add vinegar and olive oil; shake or whisk until the vinaigrette is well blended. Pour the dressing over the lentils and stir to combine. Stir the lemon, zest and scallions into the salad.
Drain the tuna and if you need to add olive oil, stir the oil into the tuna. Then flake the tuna over the lentils. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Cover and chill the salad for a couple of hours to enhance the flavors, or simply serve immediately.
Makes 6-8 pancakes
1 16-ounce can of corn, drained (or 2 cups frozen corn, thawed)
2 large eggs
6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Canola oil for frying
Preaheat the oven to 250F degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and line a plate with paper towels for draining the oil from the pancakes after they are cooked.
Put the corn, eggs, flour and salt in a food processor or blender and grind until everything is well mixed and rather smooth. It won’t be completely smooth. That’s fine.
Heat a large, nonstick frying pan (I prefer cast iron) with a heavy bottom over medium heat and add 3 Tablespoons canola oil. When the oil is hot, drop a tablespoon of batter per pancake into the hot oil, pressing gently to round the pancakes. Cook for about 2 minutes until the underside is golden brown. Flip the cakes and continue to cook for about 2 minutes until the second side is brown. Remove the pancakes to the paper-lined plate to drain. Cover with more paper towels and pat dry. Transfer them to the baking sheet; cover with foil (loosely) and put them in the oven to stay warm while the continue making the remaining pancakes. Serve warm. They are even good the next day, cold.
Tomato and Pepper Salad
20 grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 roasted red pepper, diced (or a small jar of pimentos, drained)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all of the ingredients together and stir to combine. It makes a lovely accompaniment to any meal. You can also add a tiny bit of white vinegar if you like.