Salad or soup?

March was ablaze with sunshine; cotton jackets emerged from under heavy coats, cherry tomatoes covered the breakfast toast, creamy avocadoes turned up for almost every meal,
and it seemed that the jellied chicken stock would not go the way of onion soup but of asparagus risotto.
Except that now we´re firmly back in midwinter. With a fridge full of stuff bought with different weather in mind.
It seems too springy, despite everything, to make soup, and yet we can´t live on a few leaves and some silly white wine.
My favourite in between solution is lentil salad. Robust, yet sprightly enough.

All you need is lamb´s lettuce , topped with lentils that you´ve boiled yourself. THe reason for this is that the cooking liquid is full of flavour, and will help you to avoid dressing them with tons of oil. With a few spoonfuls of the liquid, a bit of oil, lots of lemon juice, some of the zest, and the garlic from boiling lentils squished in, you have a pretty wonderful combo.
If you have some bacon on hand, that can never hurt, and goat´s cheese is always good. A poached egg is heavenly. And for a gold medal, add a spoonful of onion jam.

I´m a huge fan of bottled beans, but lentils don´t seem to make it past the process so well, and they´re not such a bother to make, with the no soaking, no taking forever thing. So I definitely recommend making your own, specially if you can find the little black exquisite caviar lentils from León.


More sprouts

J and I received another sprouty present yesterday. More mustard, which is sitting pretty until it goes into another avocado salad; and fennel seed sprouts, which I´d never seen in my life and which are so gorgeous.

At first I didn´t quite know what to do with them (except munch them out of hand, which I did with gusto). Fennel isn´t very common in Spanish food, that I know of. I toyed with the idea of a Provençal fish soup, but it felt like too much work. And it was J who provided the anser. "That Sicilian pasta with sardines and fennel", he said. What a jewel of a man!

These shoots are tender little things, and I feel won´t stand up to actual heat. So what I did was mash a tin of sardines with some butter and lots of pepper and a dash of orange juice and the merest shaving of zest. This, spread on those Nordic dark crackers, and topped with fennel sprouts, made me feel utterly sophisticated and springlike and healthy and ready for anything.

I daresay thinly sliced fennel bulb might do the trick, but these little tendrils are so pretty, I´m almost tempted to start up a jar of sprouts myself. We´ll see. For now, I still have a few left, enough for another sandwich.

The illustration will be in next mont´s "Viajar" magazine.



Here´s the banner I´ve made for Mary, aka Breadchick. It´s up just in time for the tentative beginning of spring. In Madrid chairs and tables are already beginning to sprout on sidewalks, and one can enjoy frothy little cañas in the sun.

Also, in a suitable springly mode , my friend Mariana, aka MariaGodzilla, gave me a bunch of mustard shoots (sprouts?) on Monday. They´re beatiful, grassy and fresh, with a hot mustardy aftertaste. They´re impossible to find around here, and these were home grown. The first I munched straight out, but after a while I decided to do them justice, with:

a salad- cherry tomatoes, perfect avocadoes, the mustard shoots, a few drops of olive oil, a slosh of sherry vinegar and salt.

and also, a sandwich- very dark rye bread, mashed avocado (they´re all over the place now, fresh from Granada), smoked salmon. Topped with a straggly mess of, yes, mustard shoots.



Knife skills course

The index finger of my left hand is missing a small chunk. Are we downhearted? No. I´ve signed up for a knife skills course.

I can slice and dice with more panache than precision, and pretty quickly, but there comes a time when one must be able to tackle brunoise, julienne, baton, batonets, chiffonades. In order to never do them, probably, but what fun.