It must be spring. I’ve been cleaning the closets and raking the perennial beds and thinking, half-heartedly I admit, about things like juice fasts and detox regimes (they always seem like a good idea in the morning, but by 7 p.m. or so a glass of wine and a hunk of cheese look pretty darn appealing). I’m really drawn toward clean, clear tastes right now, a little palate-clearing between the rich flavors of winter and the sensory riot of summer.
In this spirit, we’ve been going green. There are quite a few greens in the Saturday market right now. I think they’re all still green house or hoop house, but they taste mighty fresh and crisp after a couple of months of gnarly old root vegetables (enlivened by the — very, really — occasional guilty pleasure of imported berries. I know they’re not Right and not Good. But in late February, they’re pretty good). So the past couple of Saturdays have brought big bags of spinach, arugula, and salad mix into the house, followed by the need to figure out what to do with them. In case you’re in the same boat, here’s a couple of things to do with them that feel virtuous but still pleasurable, in keeping with spring feelings of both renewal and celebration.
As you’ve probably gathered if you check in on this site with any regularity, Maria’s household is pretty serious about its pizza eating. But even there, we’ve wanted to lighten up lately. This one was very simple — crust spread with a mix of fresh ricotta and mozzarella cheeses from Zingerman’s (be a bit sparing with the cheese), a handful of crisped pancetta and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper — the panel of tasters later decided that a heavy scatter of red pepper might have been better. While the pizza bakes in its hot, hot, hot-as-you-can-get-it oven, wash (and stem if necessary) a bunch of arugula and toss it with a little lemon juice, black pepper and coarse sea salt. When the pizza comes out, drizzle it with some olive oil and scatter the greens on top. Let the whole thing rest and meld a bit while you finish cleaning up and put some music on. Slice and eat.
Also in the spirit of warmer days and new life, this little beauty of a recipe from The Sustainable Table, a new-to-me site that, while not lovely, is full of great recipes for using up the farm share. Loyal readers take note, that’s a poached egg on top. At last. It MUST be spring; I’m actually doing new things.
Warm Lentil Salad (adapted from Sherri Brooks Vinton and Ann Clark Espuelas)
Serves 2, with some left-over.
A heaping cup of lentils du puy, rinsed and picked over
5 strips bacon, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t dry mustard
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 splashes Worcestershire sauce
1 t white wine vinegar
1/2 T Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T chopped fresh parsley
Some bitter greens (I used a mix of arugula and spring greens)
Eggs — number dependent on size of appetite
Place the lentils in a medium pot, add water to cover by 3 inches, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are tender and some have begun to burst open, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.
While lentils are cooking, place the bacon in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and fry until crisp. (If this is being cooked for an adults-only dinner, this step should be undertaken after children have been put to bed or are distracted outside; otherwise, the smell of cooking bacon pulls them magnetically into the kitchen and the bacon supply is severely reduced.) Remove the bacon and reserve. Add the onion to the bacon fat in the pan and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and dry mustard and sauté 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the wine and reduce until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Add the Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper to taste, and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly to make a vinaigrette. Add the lentils and parsley to the pan and toss to coat with dressing. Add the reserved bacon. Set aside and review several online guides to poaching eggs. Poach a few and feel pleased with yourself while still internally pledging to keep the whites more together the next time around. On a plate or shallow pasta bowl, lay out a bed of greens, then top with the lentils. Slide one or two poached eggs on top. Very nice with a glass of Cotes Du Rhone and some baguette.
And of course, one of the great benefits of this light fare is room for dessert. Lest you think it’s all green stuff around here. This cake from Nigel Slater is all gooey and chocolate-y and really, really brown. There were some, um, rather a lot of, eggs involved. And a great deal of butter. Heart-stoppingly (in more ways than one) good. Dark chocolate is healthy, right?