Monday, July 2, 2012

Return to Normalcy

All storms (Umm, the internal ones)  have passed for the time being, and I'm awfully glad.  I can get back to writing out of the positive overflow of my restored heart and record a couple of very simple things that are much more fun.

Firstly, today, that fabulous salad up there.  Actually, calling it a salad is a stretch. I know you were already thinking it. It's more accurate to call it simply dressed arugula.

Yes, that's it.  But it's really so much more than that.  The particular combination of basic components is so made for each other that it's more enjoyable than expected--the old sum greater than parts deal. Perhaps you've heard of it?

Take a generous handful per person of average grocery-store arugula out of its plastic tomb, drizzle it with good extra virgin olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, sprinkle it with coarse salt, and grind some pepper over it.  That's the recipe in a sentence.

We were surprised, too!  I know that simple things can be wonderful--I'm in favor of them most of the time--but I was still startled.  And impressed enough that we've eaten these simple dressed greens three times in the last week--the last time so I could photograph them as well as I am able and get this down before it gets away from me.

The best explanation I can find for the inordinate satisfaction given by those anointed leaves is the chemistry between the elements--like the energy in that small but compatible group of true friends that makes for a great party, even when everyone else couldn't show.  The peppery bitterness of the greens gets brightened by the lemon juice, their oppositional balance is rounded by the olive oil, and the salt and pepper do their usual two step on top. What an act!

I did use my good olive oil, sourced and bottled by a local gentleman, bless him.  That could have contributed.  And I do think using coarse kosher salt helped, too--adding crunchy texture as well as its usual flavor save.  There is that old wisdom that when the ingredients are good not much else is needed. This dish may be proof of it. Regardless, it's worth remembering for those times when I need something green and easy on the plate that won't be underwhelming.

If you're feeling all fancy, shave--don't grate, but shave with the vegetable peeler--some real Parmigiano-Reggiano into your little black dress of a salad. Of course you could add all manner of other delights: toasted nuts, dried fruits, other cheeses, roasted vegetables.  Your hardly-blank green canvas can go in many directions if you wish.  But thanks be, it doesn't have to.

Dressed arugula can also serve as an underpinning for the French version of a one bowl meal of lentils and fried egg, which is how the leaves made their most recent appearance here. Since you don't need a recipe for the greens, I've included the directions for the lentils.

Super easy or supper.  Your choice.  I love versatility.

Tomorrow, more simple goodness.

Dressed Arugula Recipe

See paragraph four above.  Done.

Warm Lentil Salad with Fried Egg
Adapted from Epicurious 
Serves 4

3/4 cup lentils (preferably French green lentils)
4 oz thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, or to taste
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large eggs
Dressed Arugula (see above) or baby spinach

Cover lentils with cold water by 2 inches in a saucepan, then simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 20 minutes. 
While lentils are simmering, cook bacon in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp, then transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, leaving fat in skillet. Add leeks, celery, carrot, and tarragon to skillet and cook, stirring, until just tender. Add vinegar and boil until most of liquid is evaporated. Remove skillet from heat and stir in half of bacon, and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm, covered, reserving skillet. 

Drain lentils well in a large sieve. Stir into vegetable mixture and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm, covered. 

Wipe skillet with paper towels, then add oil and heat over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Fry eggs in batches until whites are just set but yolks are still runny and season with salt and pepper. 

Divide lentil salad among 4 plates atop Dressed Arugula or spinach. Top with eggs and remaining bacon.

1 comment:

Dave Flora said...

It's hard to sell someone on the goodness of just a bowl of greens, but did a great job! You know I can't wait for the next post....mmmmm!