Wednesday, September 23, 2009

sweet potato, lentil and goat cheese salad

sweet potato, lentils, goat cheese, mint and arugula
i was still in summer mode
when i opened the main page
of epicurious and was greeted
derailed from my original path
(i think it was for prune plums),
i clicked through to fall recipes,
showed amazing patience
when it took three pages to find
and then landed, finally at
the very fall-inspired dish.

it was one of those moments,
much like when i first saw this pie,
that i knew i would be making
the salad very soon.
it wasn't going to fall into
the print and lose
mentally filed away piles,
but instead, cooked as soon as
it made a modicum of sense
to set our oven back to its
winter mode: roast.
french green lentils
this past weekend,
i ransacked the bulk section
at the store, coming away
with what i hoped was
3/4 cup of french green lentils
and then on sunday,
headed to the farmer's market
in search of a sugar pumpkin.
none. and at the store an hour
later? none again.

i toyed with the idea of using
butternut squash - the
recipe had even said it was
an option - but when i saw
sweet potatoes, i knew
that was the obvious answer.
we are huge fans and i had
a feeling that, for us,
the salad would turn out
even better this way.
plus, pumpkins are tricky
to cut, a pain to peel
and messy to seed.
yes, this was a much
better option.

if i had any hesitation about
this salad, it was this:
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint.
i think it's fair to say that
i am anti-mint.
i do not like
mint chocolate chip ice cream
and over the years
i've done a very good
job at avoiding mojitos.
yet, as i walked past the
herbs, i lingered,
clinging close to the feeling
that recipe developers don't
add random ingredients just
for the fun of it. i consulted
with larry who agreed
that i should give the mint
a chance.

(fyi, i still stand
my ground on
and fennel
regardless of what future
recipe they show up in.)
sweet potatoes on baking sheet
i fell in love with the salad
before our first bites.
when we returned home
from the store,
hours before,
i had boiled the lentils
and roasted the sweet potatoes,
setting them aside in bowls until
it was time for dinner.
the sweet potatoes were slightly
smoky and spicy
thanks to the
smoked paprika
i rewarmed the cubes slightly just
before making the salad -
for me, something that's warm always
seems heartier than it would cold.
arugula and mint
as i slivered the mint
and placed everything in the bowl,
i just had that feeling -
that rare, but exciting, feeling -
that this was going to really work
and become a new favorite
in our house.
i loved how step-by-step it was,
how most of the ingredients
carried very little guilt with them
and how,
when tossed together,
everything just looked so right.

i'll admit,
that even after committing to the mint,
doubt still lingered.
but the fresh herb added
a really unexpected touch,
and i found myself craving a piece
with each bite.
i really, genuinely liked the mint
(so much so that just wait and see
what i did with the rest of it
for the next night's dinner).
smoked paprika, cumin and cayenne sweet potatoes
sweet potato, lentil and goat cheese salad
adapted from bon appetit magazine
the original recipe called for sprinkling the pumpkin (or in this case, sweet potato) with hot smoked paprika. you know we love our smoked paprika, but we only had sweet smoked and i could not bring myself to buy a hot smoked, too. instead, i added cayenne. also, the original recipe called for one cup of goat cheese, which for our two person purposes seemed like quite a bit, so i reduced that and used a very exacting, four or five extra large handfuls of arugula leaves.

3/4 cup French green lentils
2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and cubed into 1" pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2-3 good shakes of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large handfuls baby arugula
3/4 log (4 ounce) goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

heat oven to 375˚f.

place lentils in small bowl. cover with cold water and soak 10 minutes; drain. (um, i didn't realize until i just wrote this that i completely missed this step. obviously, i was still ok. i think.)

bring large saucepot of water to a boil; add salt. place lentils in boiling water and cook 30 minutes, or until tender, but firm. drain lentils. rinse with cold water until cool, shaking strainer. drain completely.

in large bowl, combine cubed sweet potato, 2 tablespoons olive oil, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. transfer sweet potatoes to single layer on foil-lined baking sheet. roast 20 minutes; turn (drizzling with olive oil or spraying, if necessary) and cook 10-15 minutes more, or until tender. cool on baking sheet.

just before serving: reheat sweet potatoes, if desired, in 350˚f degree oven for 5-10 minutes, or just until warm (not hot). in bowl, combine arugula, mint, half of the goat cheese, sweet potatoes, lentils, red wine vinegar and remaining olive oil (the recipe also instructed to use leftover oil from the baking sheet to make the dressing - i did not have any, which is why i slightly increased the amounts of the vinegar and oil).

divide salad amongst bowls; top with remaining crumbled goat cheese. garnish with mint leaves.

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