Monday, October 20, 2008

Shoulder season supper: cozy and fresh come together

So, it's fall. I've completely come to terms with that now. But we're not totally in darkness yet. I have been looking suggestively at my slow cooker, but haven't yet been craving stew and roasted root veggies every day. There's still part of me that wants to eat green salad with fruit and tacos with fresh salsa. The farmers market on Saturday still had fresh heirloom tomatoes, so there.

Tonight I pulled together a dish that perfectly satisfied my need for summer and winter flavours to mingle. I thought I should share it in case you're feeling a bit mixed up by this shoulder season just like me.

I started by cooking some du puy lentils (French green lentils). These have been my favourite lentils lately. I love how tiny and delicate they are, their peppery flavour, and how quickly they cook (15–20 minutes, no pre-planning required!). So, I put 1 1/4 cups of du puy lentils in a small pot with lots of water and put them on the stove to simmer.

Then, I heated my large cast iron skillet and melted 2 tbsp of butter with 2 tbsp olive oil. I used this to saute 1/2 red onion (sliced), 1 sweet pepper (sliced – from the farmers' market, it was half red and half green), 2 garlic cloves (minced), and 1 fennel bulb (sliced). Once these had softened in the butter and oil, I added some spices – 1 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika, 1 tsp dill, 1/4 tsp Spanish smoked paprika – and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Next, I chopped up a whole savoy cabbage (1" pieces) and added this to the pan along with 1 1/2 – 2 cups veggie stock (conveniently stashed in my fridge from the batch I made this weekend). I covered the pan and let this all simmer together for a while. Oh, and I added 1–2 tbsp brown sugar 'cause the cabbage just seemed to be calling out for some sweetness.

While the veggies were simmering, the lentils finished cooking. I drained them, poured them into a bowl and stirred in the following: salt and pepper to taste, a few glugs of walnut oil, a small glug or two of white wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/4 cup minced fresh mint, and 3 small green tomatoes, diced. Mmmm, I had to start eating this by the spoonful right away – so good, earthy, fresh and bright tasting. Tangy and a tiny bit spicy.

After my snacking, the cabbage was softened and just about ready to eat. I let it simmer uncovered for a few more minutes to reduce some of the liquid. Then I got impatient and decided it was okay a bit brothy. One final thing – I chopped up the fluffy fennel fronds and stirred them in.

I spooned the veggie mixture into a bowl and topped with the lentil salad. I wasn't sure what exactly I had ended up with, but it turned out to be really delicious! The cabbage was sweet and wintery, but still had that great fresh from the farm veggie taste, and the tangyness of the lentils with their mint and chopped fresh tomatoes brought enough summer into it all. Mmm, perfect to cozy up on the couch with, read the paper, and let the blustery sound of leaves falling drift into the background for a while.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the perfect dish for a cold wintery blustery day!

Laura said...

Hooray! I like the term 'shoulder season' - is that the elusive, liminal time between summer and fall, or is it a description of autumn itself? Sounds like a great dish; puy lentils are fantastic, and I like the blending of the fresh, bright ingredients like mint with the lentils and the cabbage.

One more thing: would you call this a casserole, Meg?