I’ve been having an issue with apples lately. Wonderfully tart cooking apples have been flooding the farmers’ market lately. I don’t make (or even like, much) apple sauce and I don’t make apple pie (I leave that to my mom since hers rocks), which leaves mostly really autumnal creations like apple cinnamon muffins and stewed apples with pork tenderloin. Those kinda dishes.
So what is a foodie locavore to do?
It turns out the farmers’ market itself took care of that for me. I found both poblanos and tomatillos, so I knew I was thinking Mexican. Then I found local cilantro, and started thinking about making my own salsa verde.
Rick Bayless has a sweet little book called Salsas That Cook that I picked up used this past spring. It starts with 6 basic salsas and then provides recipes that are made with the salsas. I started looking there for inspiration for what to do with my salsa verde.
In the meantime, I had also found orange cherry tomatoes that are so sweet they will knock the socks off of your fruits—both berries and stone fruits. I mean these things are unbelievably sweet and delicious. And I was still thinking about those apples—apples I had not even meant to buy until the vendor offered me a sample with a wicked gleam in his eye. He said something about what kind of unusual variety they were—it went right over my head, but the apples definitely hooked me. They were crisp, tart and juicy. Perfect cooking apples to my mind.
So when I saw Bayless’s Tangy Green Lentil Salad, which he makes with a slightly different green salsa from mine and pairs with sautéed chayote, I started thinking about what I could do with those apples with a green salsa and green lentil salad. And this salad was born.
I served it with the sweet cornbread, which was a perfect match for the tangy, tart, somewhat hot (I couldn’t find any hot peppers thanks to the latest salmonella scare—guess I should have bought those at the farmers’ market too!) salad. When we had the salad as leftovers, I turned the cornbread into croutons for the salad, and they were fabulous! I don’t have any pictures, but I highly recommend the combo. Just cube the going-stale cornbread, place in one layer on a greased cookie sheet, spray or drizzle with oil, sprinkle salt, pepper and cumin onto them and bake at about 375 for around 20-25 minutes, or until they are done enough for you (I did not bother getting mine super crunchy). Toss every 7-8 minutes or so.
This salad is my entry to Sweetnicks’ ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday weekly blogging event. Not only does it feature all kinds of healthy vegetables, but the apples, while I am not sure of the variety, almost certainly qualify as a Antioxidant Rich Food (Cate’s list includes several different varieties of apples, including Granny Smith, which these are fairly akin to, only smaller).
A note about portioning: I was halfway through this salad when I realized that the 2 cups of dried lentils that Bayless calls for makes a freakin’ huge salad. Cut the recipe in half for one night’s salad for 3 adults or less.
Tangy Green Lentil Salad With Tart Apples & Salsa Verde
Inspired by Salsas That Cook, Rick Bayless
2 cups lentils, preferably Le Puy green lentils
1 ¼ cups salsa verde (see below for recipe but any green salsa that you like should work)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one juicy lime (2 if dry)
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
½ t salt
1 ½ large onions, your choice (I used Vidalia)
4 small tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped into smallish pieces and tossed in half of the lime juice from above
2 large handfuls of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
8 cups (10 oz) baby spinach, washed and dried
½ cup coarsely shredded Asiago (Parm is fine too or queso anejo if you have it but I did not)
Bring a good sized pot of water to boil and then add the lentils. Bring back up to a boil and then turn heat to medium and let the lentils cook at a low boil or lively simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until tender but not falling apart. Drain well and set aside in a large bowl.
In a food processor or blender, place the salsa, half of the lime juice, the cilantro and the oil. Blend until well combined and smooth. Stir 2/3 of the dressing into the warm lentils and set the remaining 1/3 aside.
Slice the onions into wedges. Spray a cookie sheet with oil and spray the onions with oil and then roast at 450 F until charred, 12-15 minutes (keep a watch).
When the onions and lentils have come to room temperature, toss the lentils, tomatoes, onions and apples together. Dress the spinach with the remaining dressing; make a bed with of the spinach and nestle the lentil salad inside of it. Sprinkle generously with the coarsely grated Asiago.
Laura’s Farmers’ Market Salsa Verde
7 small poblanos
2 lbs tomatillos, husks removed and the tomatillos rinsed and dried
½ large sweet onion, cut into wedges
5 garlic cloves, paper removed
Juice of half of a lime (use whole lime if dry)
½ cup cilantro, coarse chopped
1-4 T water
jalapenos or serranos to taste, optional (just roast them with the poblanos and tomatillos)
1 t kosher salt
2 t sugar
Using a cookie sheet 4 inches from the broiler, broil the tomatillos and poblanos peppers (and hot peppers, if using) until the tomatillos are olive green and soft with charred spots. This will involve turning the tomatillos after about 5 minutes. Broil the poblano peppers until charred all over (they will take longer—remove the tomatillos before the peppers are done). Set both aside in a bowl to cool. If using hot peppers, remove them with the tomatillos at the olive green, somewhat charred stage and do not bother peeling.
In the meantime, turn the oven down to 425 F and roast the onions and garlic for about 15 minutes, stirring 3-4 times throughout. They will become fragrant, wilted and a little charred.
While they are roasting, if the poblanos are cool enough, peel and seed them. Don’t worry about peeling them perfectly—some charred spots in this salsa will taste just fine. Place them with the tomatillos and the accumulated juices into a blender. Blend into a puree.
Add the onions and garlic when they are done and pulse again into a puree—I only used the low speed for this salsa. Add the salt, sugar, lime juice and cilantro and pulse a few times more. Add the water as needed to make an easily spoonable consistency.
Store in the fridge.