There is that time of year when all you want to feed yourself is fresh, crunchy, cold (or maybe room temperature) food. The time when you are drinking more cold beverages than you thought possible. And when you are going to backyard gatherings or picnics in the park. That time of the year is now and all I want are things that are stuffed with fresh herbs from the garden, salty, tangy, and maybe a little spicy. Luckily, this simple salad satisfies all of those cravings.
How simple? First, throw a bunch of herbs, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar into a food processor. Toast your couscous until it is golden, then cook it with broth to give it some extra love. Sauté the asparagus and peas for just a few minutes, until they have just a touch of color but are mostly a vibrant green. Top all of this with crumbled feta for a touch of salty briny tang, and enjoy. Don’t worry, you’ll have sauce leftover to drizzle over any thing hot off the grill.
I’m going to be honest folks. It feels a bit challenging to write about summer and my garden and produce when the world is falling apart. But here we are. I know, pea blintzes can feel trivial – they do to me too. I can’t spend 100% of my waking hours reading articles and calling representatives and being depressed about the state of the world, so I am doing my best to act like everything is normal and it’s all going to be fine. Despite the fact that at the moment it’s looking pretty bleak.
Now that we’ve got that depressing shit out of the way, I guess let’s talk about my garden. That sounds fun doesn’t it?
I feel like I’m in produce overdrive! Between our expanded beds and the CSA we have this year I’m having trouble keeping up with the lettuces, greens, peas, and radishes. I’ve been eating salads for every meal and adding sautéed collards or bok choy to everything I make. When shelling peas started coming in from my garden, these blintzes popped into my mind and I wasn’t able to get them out. I don’t recall eating that many blintzes as a child, but I know it happened, and that they were a treat filled with sweet cheese and topped with fruit. But every since eating blintzes stuffed with mushrooms at Malka’s chanukah pop up, I feel like the world of savory blintzes is a whole new world.
My little garden didn’t produce enough shelling peas for a full batch, so I supplemented with some frozen ones, steamed them with some lemon juice, layered them on top a creamy spiced cheese filling, and wrapped it all up in pillowy crepe-like pancakes. The result was just this side of savory, delicate and lovely, a dish that could be eaten at brunch or for a light dinner.
I have never really liked lentils. When I was young, lentils and beans both had this texture (I think from cooking them into oblivion until they became mushy and grainy) that I just couldn’t stand. And so I stopped eating them, simple as that. Mexican food became a slight challenge (back then, it was because I didn’t like beans, now it’s because I can’t eat corn), but I mostly got away with it. Beans re-entered my life when I started living with my friend Carmelle and she made the most amazing refried beans and vegetarian chili. But lentils… I still couldn’t get behind. I hadn’t ever had them and thought, “Now those are good lentils!”
Recently though, my sister has been on a microbiome and gut-health kick, telling us all that we should be eating this or that, sending us articles and books to read. And when she sent along a recipe for lentils on our family WhatsApp thread, I told her I didn’t really eat lentils. She proceeded to yell at me (as much as one can yell via text) and tell me that lentils are good for you and that I should be eating them. It also happens that around this time, I was in the thick of cooking my way through many recipes in Alison Roman’s Dining In. From it, I made a recipe for spiced lentils (used in a rendition of a salad nicoise) that I found to be incredibly delicious. So delicious in fact, that I told the checkout guy at the grocery store that he had to make it immediately, and I let him take a picture of the recipe I had on my phone.
So I was working on liking lentils, and I was off to a really good start. Now I’ve become a person that, instead of cooking a batch of rice or farro on Sunday afternoon for lunches that week, will cook a batch of lentils to be used in salads and bowls or seasoned with oil and herbs for a side. I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore.
As I’ve been looking for other ways to use this batch of lentils, a recipe slowly started formulating in my brain. The warmer weather has got me itching for all food that is representative of spring, and a warm salad with lentils and crispy lamb sprang to mind (pun very much intended). With a little heat from the onion, some creaminess from the yogurt, bites of juiciness from tomatoes, and a little tang from the feta, this recipe became a quick favorite. It’s easy enough to throw together, makes great leftovers, and doesn’t make too many dirty dishes. I think you’ll like it.
There is something about home that is indescribable. We haven’t finished purchasing all the things we need for our new apartment yet, like shoe racks and lamps and soap dispensers. But still, this place feels more like home than any place I’ve lived in a long time. We picked the curtains and the plants, our art is hanging on all the walls, and I have all of my kitchen appliances in one place – no boxes, no storage, no knowing that one day I’m going to have to go through all these cookbooks to figure out what belongs to whom. Nope – it’s all ours.
And now that we have a table and enough chairs for a few extra bums to sit in, all I want is to have people over all the time. We’ve been pretty successful so far – having people over almost twice a week since we’ve moved in. It has reinforced my love of cooking for people, of making an excuse to get together. But why should we need an excuse? Isn’t good company enough? Add to that a home cooked meal and a bottle of wine and how could anyone turn you down? I feel lucky that we’ve gathered a little community who feels the same way, that there’s no better reason to be together other than it’s been a few days since we’ve last seen each other.
It helps that it’s spring – dusk drags its feet a little more each day, the tulips on our walkway have come and mostly gone at this point, and they’ve put up the annual rosé wine display at the local grocery store. It’s the time of year when people come out of hibernation, itching to wear their short sleeves and dig out their sunglasses, ready to get their hands dirty in the garden (we’re hoping to plant ours this weekend), antsy to go on evening strolls. For me spring means always having a pound of rhubarb in the fridge, ready to roast into a compote for topping ice cream or simmer into a syrup for mixing into cocktails or slice and bake into a galette. I would do the same if I were you.