I have had a love affair with pizza only since adulthood. As a kid, even though I did like going to Shakey’s, I was more interested in the salad bar and video games than I was the pizza. It was, most notably for me, when I moved to Seattle, specifically Pioneer Square, that my true interest in pizza formed. I courted it often at a quaint little restaurant around the corner from where I lived. It was a Trattoria that I first visited with my (then) neighbor and (still) friend Kevin; it was there that I fell in love with Pizza Margherit(a).
I am not here to talk about pizza though. I am here to talk about lentils.
Lately I have been craving a Margherita pizza, it’s true. We eat pizza often(-ish) but Tom has always flirted with Pepperoni. If not pepperoni, then something equally meaty. I go along willingly because, well, they are fine too.
This weekend, however, I am without Tom. When Tom is traveling, I tend to eat what he won’t; or more fairly put, what Tom doesn’t care to eat and I, of course do (crave to eat). In addition to calamari, eggplant and mushrooms, I have lentils.
Lentils had not been on my mind until I read a post by Elaine at Foodbod. She had a round-up of vegetarian soup and one of her favorite was the lentil soup. I knew then, that I needed to make lentil soup (and in fact, told her so). I do often get distracted though and hence, I did make lentils but did not make the soup.
Already on my mind was pizza margherita, which I had planned to have at the Club watching tennis (Tom’s league team was playing and I thought I would cheer them on in his absence). I skipped going to the club though. Sadly, they lost. Do you think it is because I wasn’t there? Me neither.
Regardless, we (the eight legs and I) had a lovely meal consisting of arugula and lentil salad kissed by truffle oil, served with a side of Miss Pizza Margherit(a). Well, my rendition this week anyway.
Lentil & Arugula Salad – serves two (easily doubled)
This is one of those things that can go many ways and requires less instruction than improvisation. It doesn’t look particularly packed with flavor but I assure you that in this instance, looks are deceiving. The lentils have been slow-cooked in the oven, but only after sautéing them in shallots and bacon. They are then treated with a sprinkle of sea salt, a drizzle of olive oil and a dousing of balsamic and apple cider vinegars.
This in itself does not the flavor make; it is simply preparing the lentil to be at it’s best since it will be meeting up with two more stars, Arugula and Truffle. I love the peppery flavor of the arugula with lentils. All that is needed to dress them (for me) is a smidge of flaky salt, a drizzle of olive oil and a drop of vinegar. With my pizza I also like truffle oil. Alas, why not just skip the drizzle of olive oil on the salad and rub the arugula with truffle oil instead? Exactly, no reason not to at all. It was genius in fact (if I do say so myself, and I do).
With or without pizza on the side, this salad is a perfect light meal. You could also dress it up with a seared scallop or embellish it with any number of vegetables depending on your mood.
2 large handfuls baby arugula, cleaned and spun dry
1/4 cup cooked lentils (approximately), recipe to follow
1/2 tsp white truffle oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Simply take the arugula, drizzle it with truffle oil and rub together between your fingers. Set it on a plate, sprinkle with salt and then toss in the lentils, warm, cold or hot, your choice. Grind some fresh salt and enjoy, with a side of pizza or…whatever.
These lentils can serve many uses. Most notably of course, is to use them with the arugula salad as described above. However, they can be eaten by the spoonful (which, they usually are regardless, by me) or served beside grilled Italian sausage and poached egg, made into soup (the original intention) or put under seared, rare tuna with a red pepper sauce; so you see, the list can go on…
1 large shallot, chopped (approximately 1/4 cup)
3 thick bacon slices, cut into dice
1 cup lentils (preferably French or beluga)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
3 cups liquid (any combination of chicken or vegetable stock and water or wine – I used 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup water but sometimes I add 1/2 cup red wine)
1 TB olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Fresh, ground pepper to taste
In a high-sided pot with a lid, add the bacon and turn on the heat to medium. When the meat begins to sizzle and cook, stir and add the shallots.
Turn the heat down slightly and cook until the bacon is rendered and the shallots are tender but not browned, 5 minutes or so.
Add the lentils and continue to cook, stirring frequently to coat the lentil with the bacon fat.
Add the balsamic vinegar. Stir again.
Pour in the liquid (if using wine, I like to add that first and let it cook down slightly before adding the rest of the liquid.
Bring to a simmer then transfer to a pre-heated 300-degree oven and cook until the lentils are tender, but not mushy. This can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour depending on the quality, age, or variety of lentil.
Remove from oven and add the olive oil, salt, vinegars and pepper. Stir and let sit for a few minutes to let the flavors meld before adjusting the seasoning.