Friday, September 17, 2010

An Oldie, A Quickie, But A Goodie

Those of you who follow me on Facebook may have noticed a lot of beach plum chatter this past week or so.  I know this, because I have gotten multiple messages asking what a beach plum is, and what the heck does one do with it.  If you're still wondering, a beach plum is a small fruit that grows in mid to northern Atlantic coastal areas.  They range in size from a cranberry to a large grape, and have a hard pit inside.  They are quite sour, and not so good for eating plain, due to the sourness and the fruit to pit ratio, they are good for making into jelly, which is the Nantucket craze, as well as infusing in booze.

However, this post is not about beach plums...not yet!  I do have more to say on them, but I'm not quite ready yet, because a) I have a lot of photos to upload and edit, and b) I don't know how my experiments have turned out!  I'll get back to you on the liquor infusion projects in, oh, a year, and the jelly a little sooner than that.  I haven't opened a jar of the jelly yet, although I have had several nightmares about it in the past week.  In one the jelly didn't set (the horror!) and in the other, the jars didn't seal properly.  Honestly, if those aren't the lamest nightmares you've ever heard of...

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a recipe that I remade this week for the first time in nearly 3 years.  It comes from Food & Wine magazine, and was actually the recipe that inspired me to become a subscriber.  The recipe is Lentil and Potato Salad with Goat Cheese, and it's so simple, easy, and wholesome, and just all around perfect, I think.  Lentils are such a super food: mild tasting, quick cooking, and absolutely packed with fiber, which makes them extra healthy.  Creamy potatoes balance the lentils' earthiness, and then a mix of fresh herbs, garlic, scallions and tomatoes add additional dimensions of flavor.  And for the final punch, creamy, tangy goat cheese ties this whole yummy mixture together.  And probably best of all, the entire meal comes together in 30 minutes.  When I was looking for goat cheese, for some reason I couldn't find a container of the "crumbled cheese for salads" that you often see in grocery stores' specialty cheese sections, so I just used dollops of Chavrie, that sort of ubiquitous block of pasteurized goat cheese log that is actually kind of yummy in its own processed sort of way.  However, I think that crumbled feta would also be a fantastic alternative.  Also, the recipe calls for French green lentils, and honestly, I have no idea what kind of lentils I used.  They came in a generic bag that said "Lentils."  They were probably common brown lentils, however, I think they worked just fine.  I also substituted red potatoes for the Yukon Golds, because I already had them, and left the skins on--I know, I'm so daring.  And I used a little less olive oil and cheese than the recipe specifies, probably closer to a 1/4 cup of EVOO and 6 oz of cheese, total.  Finally, F&W suggests, although I did not do this, that a runnily poached or soft boiled egg atop each serving of this salad would really make it a meal, and I suspect it would be quite good, if you like runny eggs, which, as discussed in April, I do not.  Despite my substitutions, I will say this recipe is pretty perfect.  I made a full batch, and have had it for 2 dinners and a lunch (I'm all about cooking a lot and generating lots of leftovers these days.  I totally don't mind eating the same thing for several meals in a row.)  It's fantastic on its own, but could easily become part of a bigger meal at a picnic or potluck.

Lentil, Potato, and Goat Cheese Salad (Food and Wine Magazine, October 2007)
(Serves 2-4 as a main dish, more as a side dish)

*1 1/4 cups French green lentils (9 ounces), rinsed and drained
 * 2 Yukon Gold potatoes (about 14 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
* 3 scallions, thinly sliced
* 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
* 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
* 1/4 cup finely chopped mint
* 1 large garlic clove, minced
* 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* 8 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (1 3/4 cup)

1. In a large saucepan, cover the lentils with cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 18 minutes. Drain the lentils well and transfer to a large bowl.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain very well and add to the lentils. 

3. While the lentils and potatoes are cooking, chop the scallions, tomatoes, parsley, mint, and garlic.  When both lentils and potatoes are cooked and drained and in a large mixing bowl, add the chopped ingredients, and dress with olive oil and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss gently but thoroughly.  Spoon the lentil salad onto plates and top with the goat cheese. Serve at once.

Note:  The lentils and potatoes can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated overnight.  Bring them to room temperature before incorporating the other ingredients and serving.

Enjoy this one, and let me know what you think!