The last few days of May were spent in Florida celebrating the 10th Anniversary of my Momma and Stepfather. There was a lot of family time, spent mostly in the kitchen either preparing food for festivities or gathered around the table eating and chatting. That's how it works in my family - vacations, visits, events all revolve around our meals. If we're traveling to New Orleans we plan our entire stay around the restaurants we simply MUST dine at while there. When planning a visit to one of our houses my mom and I are on the phone no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled date of arrival planning out the daily menus.
This visit was no exception. On the drive from the airport we discussed what lunch would be the next day, a trip to my favorite Vietnamese Pho restaurant of course, since Charlottesville is lacking in Pho. Saturday's festivities menu was also discussed and last minute grocery lists were made. On Friday afternoon we got to work in the kitchen, each of the four of us with our own list of tasks and stack of recipes, all delegated at the family meeting around the kitchen table 10 minutes before. We moved around each other as if having been choreographed, the evening nearly flawless aside from my lack of preparedness with eclair ingredients - the pate a choux dough comes together rather quickly, for future reference. Saturday was spent enjoying the results of our hard work with more family and close friends, and celebrating the marriage of two incredible people. It was a lovely, lovely weekend.
Since our return I've been unusually sleepy, most likely because of the ridiculous stress of flight delays on our way there and the busyness of the weekend from the moment we stepped foot in the sunshine state. I still can't help but wonder, however, if the copious amounts of sweets consumed has anything to do with my desire to take a nap at my desk by around 3pm each day this week. I wonder how long the effects of a sugar high and the resulting crash can stay in your system... I'm kidding of course. Maybe.
I've intended to write this post each evening after work these last few days, but every time I opened my iPhoto account and glimpsed the 500+ photos taken during our stay in Florida I became overwhelmed, and even more tired. Its been a struggle to decide which recipe to share with you first, the stuffed french toast filled with sliced bananas and homemade strawberry jam, the tangy creole mustard sauce that graced the perfectly poached fillet of grouper, the unbelievably delicious amaretto chocolate chip cookies and their accompanying amaretto buttercream frosting, or the beautiful mini eclairs with their vanilla custard filling and chocolate ganache topping.
In the end I've decided on this simple salad. It will probably seem bland and boring after the list of possibilities I gave above, but it really should not be ignored. Perhaps that's why I decided to feature it first, to emphasize that although a lentil + brown rice salad may not have been the star at our festivities in Florida, it was certainly a nominee for best supporting side dish. The ingredients are simple - after returning home to a nearly empty fridge and pantry I still had everything I needed to make this salad Sunday night. It was the first thing I did after loving on our dogs and making a quick dinner. Subtle and earthy with a lemony kick and a firm crunch, it has become the star of my lunches each day this week and will continue to make appearances at our table in the future.
Lentil + Brown Rice Saladmodified slightly from this recipeI realized after just reading Giada's recipe again that I forgot to add the kalamata olives (sorry Joe!). I bet they would be a delicious addition...
1 large carrot, peeled and diced finely
1 medium onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1-1/4 cups lentils (we used green in Florida, and I used French lentils at home)
Saute' carrot, onion and garlic over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add lentils to pot and stir to mix. Add 2 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover, simmering for about 20 minutes until lentils are tender but still firm. Remove from heat, drain. Pour lentils into heat-proof bowl and allow to cool.
Cook brown rice according to instructions, using broth instead of water.
When lentils have cooled, stir in the herbs and zest. Add the cooked rice and mix well. Salt + pepper to taste.
Top with crumbled feta when serving, if desired.
Congratulations Momma + Joe. We love you very much!