9 April 2011

This is my plan

I’ve been wondering a lot why I’ve been tight on money these days. Would it be the purchase of a silk bed linen set or a designer coat that quadrupled my life costs recently? Surely it can’t be that, are you kidding me? It must be an emergent visit to a dentist and a planned consultation with an immigration lawyer last month that dehydrated this spender’s purse. It’s saddening for me to see my porte-monnaie cash-deprived. I’m wishing my wallet a speedy recovery.

Before that occurs, I’m going to cold-heartedly scrutinize my expenses. They are reckless, I find. Reckless because how else can one call the purchase of an unneeded, but not unwanted, kilo of 65% Valrhona chocolate for 13 euro (about 16 US dollars)? Half-witted expenses, trying to befriend high-price tags, getting so wrapped up in the extraneous.

It’s time I intervene.

Since food shopping is by far the most frequent one I do, I’ll eye where my cash goes at the market. This is my plan. We all know about the money-saving properties of legumes (peas, lentils, beans), these cheap standard-bearers of fine nutrition (fibre! antioxidants! folate! iron!), also known as “the poor man’s meat”? Indeed! So I’ve decided that for now there is no better chum for my buck than a good old legume!

If you commit any pieces that appear here to memory, you might remember my unconditional appreciation of the legume chickpea. That hasn’t changed, I swear. But it dawned on me lately that to be largely eating chickpeas is very much like wearing the same pair of beloved shoes every day while your shoe rack overflows with no lesser likeable footwear. Boring. Hence no chickpeas now.

The legume of my latter days is lens culinaris -- the lentil. No particular plan behind the choice. I simply came across the recipe for the Lebanese garlicky lentil salad in an old issue of Saveur; liked its effortlessness; and being amused by the amount of garlic called for -- twelve cloves! -- gave it a try. I only had to: 1) boil up some lentils; 2), sauté the garlic and, along with cumin, lemon juice and some fresh herb, add it to the cooked legumes. Wonder if twelve garlic cloves is a big lot? Yes, it is monstrous. But if the quantity of garlic is halved, the dish is just right: full-bodied earthy lentil matter filliped by tongue-tickling garlic and lemon and quietly supported by assertive cumin. Fresh parsley on top (Saveur suggests parsley and mint). No frills. All is clear and basic. Good for the body as well as for the wallet.

Reportedly, there is a tradition in Italy to eat lentils on New Year’s Eve as a token for a bigger income in the year to come, what with the lentils’ coin-reminiscent shape. I’m going to stick to the practice even though I’m not Italian and it’s currently nowhere near New Year’s Eve.

Salata Adas (Lebanese Garlicky Lentil Salad)

Adapted from Saveur, number 132, October 2010

Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side, or 6 if used in wraps

I realize the salad is called garlicky for a reason, but I would also like to remember there are lentils in it too, which is not easy because of those twelve garlic cloves. The amount of lentils unchanged, the quantities of the rest of the components were adjusted to my liking. For example, I cut down on the olive oil too: I like my lentil/bean salads to be pleasantly moisturized by -- not swim in -- oil. Anyhow, feel free to play with the measurements: a dish that simple is good material for tweaking.

Saveur recommends to serve the salad with grilled sausages or roasted lamb. I have tried with neither. My way to devour the thing in question is to envelop it in a tortilla wrap thinly smeared with hummus in the middle. Anthony observes that that makes the salad a perfect work lunch: no need to tote a Tupperware® container -- a tortilla wrap keeps the lentils orderly in place.

1 cup green lentils (e.g. de Puy), picked over and rinsed

3-4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp ground cumin

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

a generous handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. In a medium pot, bring lentils and 3 cups water to a boil. (Choose lentils that hold their shape after cooking, the intact look of the lentils in the salad is no secondary fact to the appeal of the dish). Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, but not mushy, about 20-25 mins. Drain and set aside.

2. In a small skillet, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil. Throw in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 2-3 mins. Do not let the garlic brown. (The original recipe has you do that for 7-8 mins. Isn’t it a bit too much? Of what use is the garlic teetering on the edge of a burn?) Remove from heat and whisk in the lemon juice, the cumin and the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Pour over the lentils.

3. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with more olive oil and lemon juice before serving, if needed.

1 comment:

Toni said...

I adore chick peas.....and lentils, too! Your salad looks lovely, and I love it's simplicity!