Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Food: Lentil Almond Stir Fry with Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes

The reason I love food and cooking so much is due to the amazing opportunity to try new things. There are always innovative techniques to learn and flavors to taste. And even though I've had my share of disappointment and frustration (a disaster called pretzel rolls, for example...one of many failed experiments I may share with you some day), for the most part, the culinary world is very satisfying.

With that in mind, one of my newest learnings in the past year has been the versatility (and the super satisfying flavor) of lentils. Why it took me over 30 years to discover this, I'm not quite sure. But I have learned to know lentils is to love them. I mean how many healthy and hearty foods can you pair with so many different flavors and still end up with something mighty tasty? And to make it even better (yes, you know there has to be a nod to simplicity or speed in this posting) I love the fact that Trader Joe's has a pre-steamed version (I know, I know...I've mentioned these before when I posted this elegant and simple salmon with lentils recipe...).

The history behind today's posting has to do with one of my favorite blogs - Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks. Heidi's been blogging since 2003 and not only has she introduced me to some wonderful cooking techniques (like this one for pan frying dried gnocchi - did you know you don't need to boil it?!?) but her food photographs are beautiful and seem to perfectly represent how glorious the recipes are going to taste. It just so happens the blog is vegetarian but her dishes and recipes are truly inspirational and encourage me to eat more hearty grains and experiment outside the traditional veggie dishes. And every lentil dish I've tried on her site has been fantastic. In fact, her lentil burgers (with my own spin on them) were good straight out of the skillet for dinner and then...I ate two straight out of the fridge for lunch the next day (I'll post my version of that recipe in the near future as well). Hence my new obsession with lentils.


So with all of that pomp and circumstance, I need to bring the focus back to today's main dish...A lovely, lentil-almond stir fry. First, let me point out some common misconceptions. One, a stir fry does not need to be steeped in Asian flavors or drowned in soy sauce to be considered as such. And two, lentils are not only found in vegetarian Indian dishes and actually pair quite well with things you might not have considered such as mint sauce, brussels sprouts, and dates.

I'd consider this recipe from Heidi to be flexitarian. In other words, you could add meat to it if you'd like, but it's also plenty fulfilling on its own. I actually served this one evening as a bed for a filet of pan-seared mahi mahi - and drizzled the mint sauce on the fish. It was quite wonderful. But really, the star was what the fish was placed upon. You've got z
esty and bright mint sauce. Cooling yogurt. Earthy lentils. A slightly sweet hint from the dates. The crunch of almonds. Carmelized potatoes -AND- brussel sprouts. And it's particularly gorgeous if you're able to find blue potatoes - there's just something about a colorful plate of brown, green, white, and gemstone blue that makes everything taste all that much more fulfilling.


Quite honestly, I'm drooling on my keyboard just thinking about this recipe. And the coolest bit is depending on the accessories you garnish or pair this with, it really can play in all seasons. It's hearty and warm but just as tasty served cold. I am definitely a fan of lunchtime leftovers that I don't necessarily need to heat up in the grimy workplace microwave...I'm sure for many of us that goes without saying.





Lentil Almond Stir Fry
Original Recipe by: 101 Cookbooks/Heidi Swanson



INGREDIENTS




MINT SAUCE



  • 1 c fresh mint leaves


  • 1/2 chile pepper, de-veined/seeded


  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil


  • 1 T honey


  • 1T fresh lemon juice


LENTIL ALMOND STIR FRY





  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil


  • 6 to 8 baby potatoes, preferably blue, cut in quarters


  • 1 package of steamed lentils from Trader Joe's


  • 12 brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered


  • Handful of raw almonds, roughly chopped


  • 1/3 c plain Greek yogurt, thinned out with 1 T water, and salted with a pinch of salt


  • 3-4 dates, pitted and chopped




DIRECTIONS



Combine the ingredients for the mint sauce in a food processor and pulse to combine. Be careful not to over process/puree the mixture (texture = good). Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.



Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When you start to smell the olive oil aroma, add the potatoes and cover the skillet. Allow to cook for ~5 minutes (to get nicely browned edges), toss, and cook another 5 minutes. Add the sprouts and allow the edges to get brown and caramelized, tossing as necessarily. Add the lentils to the potatoes-brussels sprout mixture and heat through. When the mixture is nicely heated, add the almonds, toss to combine, and turn out on individual plates.



Drizzle with yogurt and mint sauce and top with chopped dates. Super yummy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Update: The Motown Mrs.

It seems as though Spring and the start of Summer have completely passed me by...that is in terms of being prompt and regular with my writing. But - I do have a pretty good excuse this time...The Motown Maiden became the Motown Mrs. on June 11!

Yes, with all the hustle and bustle of wedding planning, I got all wrapped up in plans and details to ensure a perfect day and a rockin' party. I suppose I never realized how much work was involved or even how busy I'd be close to the date (even though I am a ridiculous planner). When Jonathan and I were figuring out what we wanted, we laid out a few requirements: Good music (Rick C., you Rock!), good beverages (we picked a venue that allowed us to bring in our own beer, wine, & liquor which allowed us to have anything we wanted), and of course, good food (I had our reception venue make this recipe from Food and Wine and source their bread from here). We also had a great photographer who has just started offering wedding photobooths in addition to their wedding photo package (a huge hit with our guests...we can't wait to see the photos from Crystal and Brandon).

Once I get back some photos, I promise to share - as well as some recipes from the cookie table - everything was homemade by family and friends (my mother made two wedding cakes!). The only dessert items we outsourced were some tasty Michigan pies from here.

I'll be taking a few more days to recover from a wonderful weekend and reveling in the joys of married life. But I promise I'll post something delicious very soon and not keep you waiting. In the meantime, you may want to check out this recipe for a great use of fresh-from-the-garden asparagus and healthy soba noodles. We had it a couple of weeks ago and it was a nice change for a breakfast-meets-dinner entree.

In case you're planning a wedding or a party or helping a friend research their's, here are some of the key vendors and etsy sellers we used for our event. I would highly recommend all of them!

Wedding Ceremony: Our Lady of Good Counsel Church - Plymouth, MI
Wedding Reception: Earhart Manor @ Concordia University - Ann Arbor, MI
Photographers: Toole Art Photography
String Quartet: Go 4 Baroque
Live Music: Rick Canzano
Custom Items from Etsy (my all-time-favorite shopping site):
- Custom stamp from Terbear Co
- Book Safe (for the rings)
- Bridal Bolero
- My something blue that we sewed in the back of my dress
- Personalized matchbooks from DIYLasercut

- Fun photo booth props (the chalkboard thought bubble was a major hit!) -This, This, and This
- Burlap banner from sherisewsweet
- Chalk tags to use for table numbers
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