Crostini with Lentil and Green Olive Salad

Everyone has a safe place – mine just happens to be in the kitchen.  I feel the same way about yoga, but fortunately the kitchen is in our home, so I never have to travel far to completely escape all the stresses of life.  The kitchen has been such a big part of my life, no wonder it is my safe place – my husband proposed to me in the kitchen; I remember with my younger daughter, when she couldn’t sleep, I would bring her down to the kitchen, put her in a bouncy chair on the counter, and I would cook.  She would stop crying, and just watch me chopping away. Oh, and then the countless meals and treats I have made over the years that have brought such happiness to my family and friends.  I have such wonderful memories of the kitchen, and I look forward to many more.

The problem  is that I am so used to cooking in my own kitchen that when I happen to be somewhere else and I need to cook, my safe place gets a little chaotic – and that is never fun.  Part of my brain is telling me to calm down, you are in the kitchen, have fun – while the other side of my brain has no idea where anything is, how the stove works, whether the oven is on the warm side or the cold.  It is times like that which remind me how important it is to be agile.  It is something I deal with at work constantly – the ability to deal with ambiguity,  and I at work, I am actually pretty good at it.  I actually crave it – because it makes my day interesting.  Cooking though is different – I like going through the motions – the ones I know so well – it is comforting, and cathartic.

Usually my stories have something to do with what I am cooking – but this time I decided to change it up a bit.  I found this recipe in Food and Wine magazine many years ago, and never made it.  I was  looking for an appetizer that could sit in the refrigerator for a few days so I could get multiple uses out of it – and this was perfect.  If you like lentils, this is a wonderful healthy spread to go on crispy pieces of bread or crackers.  The green olives give it a nice subtle flavor.  I actually thought it was so good, I was eating it with a spoon.  Now, back to agility.  It took me a while to figure out – but this year that will be my focus – but not just at work…this year in the kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound lentils, preferably from Abruzzi, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 dried red chile
  • 1/2 pound green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 24 small thin slices crusty country bread
  • 1 small fresh red chile, very thinly sliced lengthwise

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium saucepan, generously cover the lentils
with water. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaf and dried chile and bring to a
simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the lentils are tender, about 30
minutes. Drain the lentils, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid; discard the
bay leaf and chile.

In a medium bowl, mash 1 cup of the lentils with a potato masher, then stir
in the remaining lentils. Add the olives, celery, shallot, 1/4 cup of olive oil
and the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the reserved 1/4 cup of
cooking liquid.

Arrange the bread slices on a cookie sheet and bake for about 8 minutes or
until thoroughly crisp. Drizzle the crostini with olive oil and generously spoon
the lentil salad on top. Garnish the crostini with slivers of red chile and
serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Crostini with Lentil and Green Olive Salad

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