July 2011

Arugula Lentil Salad

I’m still in rapture over this salad I made last weekend. It was one of those salads that simply happen out of nowhere — nay, out of sheer luck. I was in the mood for greens so I bought a bag of arugula and got some Roma tomatoes just for the heck of it. When I got home I remembered the package of cooked lentils in the fridge so that went in the mix.  Then I saw the leftover white corn that I steamed a few days earlier. “Oh I’ll slice them up and toss them in too,” I thought. Then I saw one last lemon and figured it would make a nice dressing. I squeezed some lemon juice and whisked it with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Whisk whisk whisk and voila! One of my favorite salad dressings (recipe to come below) for this impromptu salad. I tossed everything together in a big bowl and wondered if it would turn out okay.

I could not believe how good it was. It was just what the doctor ordered. Something fresh, something spicy (arugula is so very peppery), something light. The lentils and chopped bacon add that protein factor so it feels more like a meal than a side dish.

I don’t make a big deal out of the salads I whip up, usually because they’re just greens dressed with a light vinaigrette. This time, I’m putting it in the books. Please try this recipe. I think you’ll like it.

Arugula Lentil Salad

Ingredients:
One big handful of arugula
1 tomato
1/4 cup of cooked lentils
1 corn on the cob (white or yellow)
Chopped bacon or salami
Grated Parmesan cheese

Dressing:
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Whisk lemon juice and olive oil in equal parts until it thickens. Add S&P to taste. Only use about 3 to 5 tablespoons of the dressing, depending on how heavily dressed you like your salad. Reserve the rest for later.

Run a knife down the corn cob to get the kernels. Add this to the arugula, chopped tomato, lentils, grated parm, and chopped bacon or salami. Toss with a big spoon until the salad is fully dressed. Enjoy!

Sizzling bacon

Key Lime Pie

Paestry readers, I present thee a Key lime pie. Let’s just say I’ve been on a pie-baking roll. I don’t recall what inspired this one — usually I get a sudden jolt of motivation to bake a pie from something truly inspiring — but this time I simply decided. When I made one for a July 4th barbecue I realized what a delightful summertime dessert it is: refreshing, sweet, easy.

Talk about easy! Upon studying recipes, most all of them have only three ingredients for the filling: egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. That’s it! For whatever reason I thought it would be far more complicated but it’s actually quite semi-homemade.

A note about limes:

So how important is it to use Key limes versus the regular limes we usually find at the store? Wikipedia says the Key lime is more bitter and tart in flavor. I completely agree. The pie I made had a distant bitterness to it which bothered me at first, but later became very pleasing for a sweet pie. Those regular limes, by the way, are also known as Tahitian or Persian limes. They’re larger, more deeply green and apparently less acidic.

In fact, seeing recipes for Key lime pie reminded me of another recipe I saw awhile back for Meyer lemon pie. It uses the same graham cracker crust, egg yolks and condensed milk and of course, Meyer lemon juice. I am very intrigued by this and plan on trying this version someday. Meyer lemons are less sour than the typical lemon and have an orangey twang to them. Can you guess that I’m in love with citrus?

Limes awaiting their violent death.

To be reincarnated into a pie.

I fresh-squeezed every single lime. Key limes turn out to be rather small and knobbly and thus very cumbersome to squeeze. But I did it using a teaspoon and gutted those bad boys until I had about 1/2 a cup of lime juice. One tip for squeezing limes is pushing them down with your palm while rolling them on a hard surface to coax the juice before slicing. Another tip per Rachael Ray is zapping them in the microwave for no more than 10 seconds to get the juices going — it actually works!

As with most pies, making the crust is the hardest part. I ground graham crackers in a food processor until they became crumbs and added sugar and melted butter. Press down the mixture on a pan until it forms a crust. This took forever!

Here’s the recipe from Epicurious. Don’t forget the fresh whipped cream on top.

Ingredients

For crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice (if using bottled, preferably Manhattan brand)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.
Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie:

Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).
Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.