A birthday picnic menu, a lentil salad, & a short journey in the future

It is April 2055. I have just celebrated my 80th birthday. I am sitting on a bench at dusk, reading this poem. And like Alice in Wonderland, I plunge into the rabbit hole that is memory lane.  I think of you, my son, love of my life, and that night 42 years ago, that night before we celebrated your 2nd birthday. It was the night before the storm, the whirlwind of party preparations, cooking and more cooking side by side with my mother, planning and organizing, listing and anticipating. The night before the cheers, the laughter, the hugs and songs, I remember a moment of calm, before the festivities, everyone asleep; I took in that moment, with all its thoughts, and tucked it away in a hidden treasure box, close to my heart. Tonight, I can open that box and treasure it once again. This moment of gratitude, of love, of acknowledgement of my life transformed for the better, of the many lessons already learned thanks to you, this moment of realization there really was so much to celebrate. Life is full of these treasure boxes. This one, I shall leave out, open, as it radiates the tranquil warmth that is the meaning of my life.

Menu for Pablo’s birthday party/picnic/bbq at the park

Four savory cakes (they could also be called “breads” or loaves): mixed herbs; ham & green olives; goat cheese, walnut, raisins; asparagus mushrooms.

Chicken gouda muffins

Ratatouille feta muffins

Tray of crudités (carrots, cucumber, tomatoes), with hummus and creamy feta dip with mint parsley pesto

This leeks, feta, lemon quiche with homemade spelt cream cheese crust

French-style grated carrot & parsley salad

Mixed quinoa salad (with beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, olives…)

Lentil shallot salad (recipe below)

Potato salad

Cheese platter with homemade bread

And some hamburgers too 🙂

Chocolate cake made by my good friend Elleni at Deer Eats Wolf

Fresh fruit platter

Lentil shallot salad

This very simple recipe is a staple in our family, we have it almost every week. It can be made ahead and keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days. It’s an easy first course, and so delicious.

Serves 6-8

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

Age for babies: 10-12 months (avoiding the raw crunchy shallots)

12 oz Du Puy Lentils (or green lentils)
1 onion
4 cloves (optional)
4 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 large shallot
Dill for garnish (optional, substitute any herb you like or have on hand)


Dressing:
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp walnut oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper

Rinse the lentils in a colander. In a large pot, place the lentils, the whole onion (pricked with cloves if using), whole garlic cloves, bay leaves, the thyme leaves and enough water so the onion is immersed.

Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes. (Taste for consistency, should be soft but not mushy).

Meanwhile, prepare your dressing by combining all the ingredients and reserve in a bowl.
Dice the shallot.

Drain the lentils, discard the onion and bay leaves. Let cool to room temperature.

Then add the shallots and dressing, and combine. Add dill for garnish if desired.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Eggplant and lentil patties

I decided that since I have been bad with updating for the past 2 months or so, this week I will be good and give you 3 recipes!

This recipe was inspired by Manu’s Menu eggplant patties. In my version though there are lentils in the patties. I had leftover lentils an I figured they would work well to make patties.

And they did! the result where super soft pattes with a flavor profile close to that of Middle Eastern dishes (well of course that might be because I added Middle Eastern spices to it).

By the way, eggplants are a great substitute for meat and I served my patties with pita bread and tomato sauce. They made for a really nice dinner and they are much better than those vegetarian patties you buy frozen at the supermarket!

Eggplant and lentil patties

Eggplant and lentil patties

Ingredients

  • 3 small eggplants or 1 large
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils
  • spices (I used a blend for Middle Eastern meatballs)
  • breadcrumbs as needed
  • corn flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Directions

    1. First slice your eggplants in half lengthwise and cook them in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes or until soft.
    2. When the eggplants are ready, skin them and combine the eggplant and the lentils in a chopper and mix until pureed.
    3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add in the other ingredients. Start with mixing in the egg, the spices and the salt and pepper. I used middle Eastern spices, but basil, oregano or Mediterranean herbs would work great too!
    4. Then add in the breadcrumbs. Keep adding breadcrumbs until you have a more or less manageable dough. The dough should stay soft, but should be dry enough for you to handle and form into patties.

  1. Flour the patties with the flour. I like to use cornflour, because I find it gives a bit more of a crunch than regular flour when it is fried.
  2. Shallow fry the patties in the olive oil until browned on both sides. Serve hot with a bit of tomato sauce and your favorite side. Or make it a hamburger of sort by putting it in a bun or a pita as I did.

Traditions revisited: lentil burgers

So I am back. Or at least I will try to be back. Last semester at work was crazy with teaching and research and I decided to take a break from the blog. I want this blog to be a relaxing oasis, not a source of stress, so I have been posting a bit on Intsagram and Facebook and Twitter, but I did not really do much for the blog. Now it is the new year, teaching is behind me for the time being and I will try to get back to some version of a regular schedule.

Since it is the start of the year, I will start by posting a recipe for recycling lentils. As you might know, lentils are always eaten on the first day of the year in Italy because they are believed to “bring money”. Here you can find more about it. So what do you do when you have leftovers? Delicious veggie burgers is the answer!

You can start from the leftover lentils and simply add breadcrumbs to get a stiff and dry mixture. Form into patties and pan fry them. And you are done.

I decided to serve them with leftover cotechino (a traditional Italian sausage/cooked salami that is always present on the table at New Years) that I sliced and crisped in a hot pan with no added fats, and steamed spinach, because you always need something green on the table.

Otherwise, you can go the burger route and serve them in a bun with a slice of tomato, lettuce and your other favorite burger toppings. Either way it’s going to be an hit with vegetarians and meat lovers alike!

Traditions revisited: lentil burgers

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover lentils
  • 1-2 cup breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

  1. With a fork smash the lentils and mix them with the breadcrumbs. You should get a dry and rather stiff mixture. This will require more or less breadcrumbs depending on how wet your lentils are, so adjust the amount of breadcrumbs accordingly.
  2. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Form in small patties dusting with more breadcrumbs if needed.
  4. Pan fry in hot oil until they are warm, about 3-4 minutes per side.