Archives for posts with tag: Elizabeth David

I am waiting for my heirloom native American O’odham keli baso melon to ripen. I sniff it every day. I have no way of knowing when it is going to be ripe, since I’ve never seen one before. I think it’s supposed to be yellow outside. The meat is exceptionally sweet and is white. It’s grown in the desert by the O’odham Indians of Arizona, and I got the seed from Native Seed/Search.

Which brings us to our healthy lunch meat recipe for the day — lentils. People mostly think of hot lentil soup as something for a winter lunch. I remember once, however, eating a cold lentil salad with a piece of grilled teriyaki salmon on top of it, with lots of nice fresh chervil at the Hay Adams Hotel in D.C.. Lentil salad is also absolutely unsurpassably delicious, seriously, one of the top — twenty, let’s say — eats when served with melon. Any kind, slightly cooler than room temp.

The secret of lentil salad, as I’m sure you know, is the secret of potato salad. Season it when warm. (Don’t put mayonnaise or hard-boiled eggs on hot potatoes, but do sprinkle it with chicken broth, or add your vinaigrette if that’s how you’re dressing the salad, and the onions. Add the egg-based stuff when it’s cool.

(You’d also do the same with green bean salad, or chard with pine nuts and white raisins, leaving out the vinegar or the lemon juice which would discolor it, until serving time.)

I have consulted the great connoisseuses of lentil salad — Elizabeth David (Summer Cooking), Claudia Roden (A Book of Middle Eastern Food) and Deborah Madison (Greens).  Roden and Madison both advise a lemon vinaigrette for lentil salad, which is my preference too. Only Madison calls for lemon zest in the vinaigrette, and for this she deserves a point. Greens, her masterwork, suffers from a certain vegetarian/Buddhist rococo touch, as if loading on the ingredients made up for lack of meat. Madison’s lentil salad has all kinds of Stuff in it, including mint, roast peppers and feta cheese. None of those strike me as specially ‘licious. David’s awesome austere lentil salad is seasoned warm simply with onion and olive oil and garnished with hard-boiled eggs, a perfect taste and visual counterpoint to the lentils.

Claudia Roden, a Sephardic Jew expelled from Egypt by Nasser, recreated a whole civilization in exile with her classic, and revolutionary cookbook.

My favorite lentil salad, for serving  with either grilled salmon or cool melon, has carrots in it, because their sweet smoothness and orange color add pleasure. And it’s dressed warm with something like Roden’s lemon vinaigrette. Since I’m on a lemon-zest-in-everything mission, I add the zest to:

Claudia Roden’s Lentil Salad

1/2 cup lentils, soaked overnight if necessary (check package directions)


3 T finely chopped parsley


7-8 T olive oil

Juice of 1 1/2-2 lemons

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed [she says they’re optional; I don’t think so]

Black pepper

1/2 t ground coriander or cumin [optional]

Use the large, dark brown lentils for this salad. Drain them after soaking, and boil them in a half-covered pan in fresh water until barely tender. This will take 3/4 to 1 1/2 hours. [Or get yourself a pressure cooker and liberate yourself from bean cooking times.] A pressure cooker [yeah, Claudia!] will reduce the cooking time to between 10 and 20 minutes, but care must be taken not to overcook the lentils. Add salt only toward the end of cooking time. Drain well.

Mix the dressing ingredients and pour over the lentils while still quite hot. Stir in parsley, and arrange in a serving dish.

A Book of Middle Eastern Cooking

But it would be good in the Elizabeth David version too. I bet she had hers with a few well-chosen bottles of rose.

I am also going to be making Armenian Lentil Soup, which uses fruit in a savory mixture, a combination that sends me. It has eggplant in it too. Seems to be a lot of them around lately.

Sam Cooke – You Send Me

Lunch. Texas caviar awaiting its homemade pita chips.

Dinner. The first hors d’oeuvre in Elizabeth David‘s Summer Cooking, a work of genius.
A.) I was way too hungry to style this properly. B.) Eggs for dinner only if you have two dozen farm-laid ones given by friends.

Next up, omega threes per the really stinky French healthy lunch meat, anchoaide de Croze, which is even less photogenic.

I wouldn’t say meatless is cheap. The fresh ingredients for the Texas caviar, the olives, radishes, French bread, cultured butter and some other non-meat groceries ran me nearly $60 at Whole Paycheck. But both are meals I can have a couple of times — let’s say they’re six meals. I really should work out the financials. Next year in Jerusalem.

Nothing I’ve eaten lately falls under the cuisine dolce far niente rubric. Except that really excellent, sublime, actually, dinner of mango sherbet and honey-roasted almonds on a day I didn’t feel like cooking. Mmmm.

This is my quest, for budget, health and happiness, in 2012. I don’t want to fall back on purchased lunch meat or leftovers, but rather to have something special for lunch, with an emphasis on omega threes and greens. The previous fallback has been home-roasted org turkey breast, which is very easy and which I’m very fond of, but which can be pricey and less greeny and fishy than variety suggests.

So far we have had

  • home-made Spam (Fannie Farmer‘s ham loaf with Costco ham ground at home and frozen in 1 lb. packages),
  • ditto salmon loaf (not cheap, but better and cheaper than the traditional canned salmon, with frozen wild-caught filets: I need to investigate Costco’s farm-raised filets),
  • home-brined tongue
  • ricotta spinach pie (>:-P)
  • very garlicky hummus made in 10-minutes with beans soaked overnight and cooked in the pressure cooker, served with demi-peeled cucumber dice
  • Cafe Lula’s awesome peanut butter, sambal, sprouts, cukes, and when in season, tomato Tineka sandwich,
  • chick pea and lentil dal, with Basmati rice, broccolli, and tamarind-date chutney, which may be the perfect vegan meal…except for the quantities of CLARIFIED BUTTER in the dal
  • Fergus Henderson‘s lima bean/cauli/leek salad with lemon/garlic vinaigrette
  • and etc.

Goals have been to steer away from cholesterol and nitrates. (Successful: I had a slice of bacon about two months ago and I nearly passed out. WOW.) And to up fish and greens. (Remind me to add sardines, smoked, in oil, to my grocery list. Licious.)

The least successful of the purpose-built for lunch dishes was the ghastly ricotta-spinach pie, which was also too ugly to want. Given two dozen farm-laid eggs two generous friends gave me, I splurged choles on a frittata with a ton of Parm and broccolli rabe, which is possibly among the best leftovers on the planet and full of greens.

Some of my favorite greens ingestion methods are

  • Glory brand canned collards, nuked for lunch, with Vidalia onion chopped on top
  • a bag of defrosted frozen spinach mixed into a nutmeggy, garlicky turkey/pork/beef loaf
  • beans and greens, like chard in pureed white bean soup, or escarole sauteed with garlic and white canellinis and, finally,
  • a huge veg soup, tons of celery, carrot, onion, beans, thyme with a bunch of kale in chiffonade.

A big veg soup, with beefy stock and tomato and a few beans with lots of veg makes a very satisfying light hot cheap lunch. As the Asians know. Salad I find disheartening for lunch.

I have re-invested in this cookbook, which I deacquisitioned two moves ago, because as I recall she has great menus, good recipes for cold green soups and summery picnic dishes for keeping in the fridge, and obvs everything is cooked ahead. I like to cook every two days and freeze my own Lean Cuisines. I think this book will work for me.

Maybe I’ll cook my way through this and Elizabeth David‘s Summer Cooking this summer.  There’s an anchoiade with figs I’m up for. Mmmmm.

Elizabeth David, circa 1960

Elizabeth David, circa 1960 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, it’s Texas caviar, with frozen home-cooked black-eyed peas, and the Homesick Texan’s bumpin’ recipe. You have got to try it. Do the Rotel. You know you want to. And read the chile’s blog.

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