Monday, October 15, 2007

The Most Interesting Part of My Day

When you look around and realize that the most interesting thing you’ve done during the day involves Murphy’s Oil Soap (even if the dining room table is extremely clean now), you feel like maybe something a little nice for lunch is in order.

Since this is pretty much a summary of my day, I looked to a new cookbook I got recently. I’ve long been a fan of Bill Granger through my subscription to an Australian cooking magazine called delicious. and I have two of his cookbooks (biils food and bills open kitchen). About a year and a half ago I read of another one that had been published in Australia, bills sydney food. I looked and looked for this one, but with no luck. Finally, about two weeks ago on a trip to Elliot Bay Book Company, I stumbled on it. It wasn’t cheap, but I had to complete my collection.

Thank goodness I bought it, because this morning when I realized I wanted to make a nice lunch, Bill had just the recipe: Spiced Lentil Salad with Prawns and Mint Yogurt Dressing. As I’ve said, I’m of the opinion that lentils are a wonderful transition food from summer to fall. Today was a dreary, gray day with lots of yellowy brown trees, and some rain. Also some sick kids.

Did I mention that? Three of my kids have high fevers—103+. They’ve had them all weekend. The fourth one seems interestingly immune to whatever it is that the others have. I started making this recipe at 10:30 this morning, and finished up about 1:30. That’s not to suggest that there’s anything time-consuming about it. Quite the opposite—it’s really a pretty quick fix. Cook and dress lentils, cook shrimp, make dressing, assemble. But when you’re interrupted every 10 minutes to give a baby a bottle, change a diaper, change a DVD, or dispense Motrin (did you know children’s Motrin comes in cherry, grape, and bubble gum flavors??), things tend to drag out a bit.

So this recipe had the autumnal lentils I love, plus some flavors that have hints of summer in them—shrimp, mint, spring onions. The shrimp, bathed with olive oil and turmeric, have a bright yellowy orange color that can either be reminiscent of summer, or a reminder of the bright leaves outside that today are dripping with raindrops.

My lentils took longer to cook than the recipe directs because they were old. Instead of taking 15 minutes to cook, they took more like 25. I also omitted the green chili that it called for because I don’t care for things that are too spicy, and because I didn’t want to take the time to chop it. I left out the blanched green beans, again on the grounds that I was hungry and wanted to eat before Thomas the Tank Engine was over.

I made the dressing in my mini chopper, which worked beautifully. I used nonfat yogurt, which was OK, but I think it would have been even better with whole milk yogurt, or even that extra thick Greek yogurt that’s available now. Once the fish sauce and lime juice are added it would be a nice creamy dressing.

All in all, a bright sunny lunch on a rainy day filled with taking care of children, cleaning the dining room table, and little else of interest.

Spiced Lentil Salad with Prawns and Minted Yogurt Dressing
From bills sydney food by Bill Granger

1 cup du Puy lentils
¼ cup finely slices scallions
½ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 green chili, finely chopped
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ cup cilantro leaves.
1 tsp turmeric
20 raw prawns, peeled and deveined, tails intact

To Serve
1 cup baby spinach leaves
3 1/3 oz green beans, blanched and refreshed
Mint yogurt dressing

Place lentils and 1 ½ cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the lentils.

Place warm lentils, scallions, 4 Tbsp of the olive oil, vinegar, chili, salt, pepper, ground coriander, cumin and cilantro in a bowl. Stir to combine, and set aside.

Place remaining olive oil, turmeric, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir to combine. Add prawns and stir to coat with oil.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add prawns and cook until just opaque, shaking pan frequently.

To assemble salad, divide lentils among 4 plates, top with baby spinach leaves, green beans, and prawns. Finish with a drizzle of yogurt dressing. Serves 4.

Mint Yogurt Dressing
1 cup yogurt
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp fish sauce
4 Tbsp finely chopped mint

Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.

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