This article began as a thought filled dish to Post on Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of Lent, for Catholics a day of Fasting and no meat. Though Catholics full day fasting will only occur again on Good Friday, still, with some dispensations toward the very young, elderly, or those ill, all others are required to abstain from eating meat each Friday until Easter Sunday.
Many religions from throughout the world adhere to some type of fasting, in preparation to a sacred holiday or perhaps as a form of purification. As sharing food and feasting has always been a central focus of communal celebration and festival throughout history, so too has dedicated abstinence and self-sacrifice from food, or certain types of food then playing a significant role of symbolic direction in the lives of the faithful. The purpose of fasting or refraining from certain types of foods is not always about the foods themselves but towards truer meaning in conscious self-reflection, prayer, and penance, a continual reminder of keeping the focus on God.
In addition to abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, many Christians will make an additional self-sacrifice such as giving up a favorite food as candy or sweets. Others may look at the time to do a little something extra, being more mindful in their everyday activity and prayer. Sometimes being more aware and mindful also makes our weaknesses come into the light more clearly, maybe you know what I mean if you too fast or make more conscious attempts at any time during the calendar of your own religious observances.
In thought toward Spiced Peach Blog Post for Ash Wednesday, I realized how many of the required meatless Fridays in my own household have included picking up Pizza from the local Pizzeria. The truth is Friday is one day, eager to unwind from the busy week that I do not really like to cook. Therefore, though I have been real effective in keeping meat off the family table for years on Fridays over Lent, really, outside of the usual daily dinner blessing, it has not afforded my family or me any extra prayer or sacrifice.
Therefore, I decided each Friday this Lent I would prepare simple meatless dishes that involved a little more prayer and reflection by adding on this little extra effort mindful of my own family. The first dish planned, the Warm French Lentil Salad using only a few humble ingredients but making it a worthy dish of Thankfulness.
As I began sifting through the beautiful French Lentils, the light clacking sound of the beans hitting the sides of the colander, lifting them then letting them fall like a child playing with colorful pebbles out of a wide mouth jar, I recounted on things and began to be more thankful for the bounty, the beautiful sunny day that would provide enough natural light for the photographs. Rinsing the lentils, before pouring them in the pot and covering them with cold water for soaking I returned to appreciating each of the humble ingredients to create this lovely dish.
I suppose, no matter what our religion is, one of the keys may be to always remember the purpose on why it is in the first place that we are called to these moments and intentions within self-sacrifice. Surely if we keep the purposeful meanings in mind then following that time, we can then emerge more fully in sharing with others the joyous feasts of the culminated celebrations, including family food preparations like Warm Lentil Salad.
- 1 1/2 pounds, French lentils (available in the bulk department of Whole Foods)
- cold water, enough to just cover lentils and seasoning vegetables while cooking
- 1 large carrot, rinsed and cut into thirds
- 1 large stalk celery, rinsed and cut into thirds
- 1 small onion cut in half, skin attached
- 1 medium onion, whole, stuck with 3 whole cloves
- 6-8 sprigs, fresh thyme
- olive oil, enough to thinly coat the bottom of a stock pot
- one large lemon, seeded and juiced, or more according to taste
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup olive oil, approximately, or a touch more according to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked back pepper
- 1 carrot, peeled, chopped into small pieces
- 1 celery stalk, stringed and chopped into small pieces
- 1/2- 3/4 red onion, medium sized, chopped into small pieces
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
- 1 cup fresh parsley chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more according to taste
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- crumbled goat cheese for topping, approximately 1-1 1/2 ounce per salad plate
- Sift through French lentils removing any small stones or debris, rinse, then add lentils to a large stock pot, cover with water and soak for at least 3 hours before cooking, drain, rinse.
- Rinse out and dry the stock pot or large enameled pot used for soaking the lentils then pour in enough olive oil to just lightly coat the bottom. Add in the carrot, celery pieces, small onion cut in half, the medium whole onion stuck with three whole cloves, and the whole sprigs of fresh thyme. Heat vegetables and fresh thyme on very low heat until carrots and celery begin to soften then spoon in the lentils stirring well with the vegetables in the pot. Pour in enough cold water, to just cover the pot ingredients. Bring soup to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer around 45 minutes to an hour until the lentils are soft, but not mushy or overcooked.
- When French lentils are cooked, drain, remove the flavoring vegetables and sprigs of fresh thyme and discard. Transfer the cooked lentils to a long or oval ceramic dish spreading all across to cool down evenly. While the lentils are still warm proceed with dressing and salad assembly.
- Into a mixing bowl, tilt in the fresh lemon juice then pour in vinegar. Begin pouring olive oil into the mixture whisking well to emulsify, add in the salt and pepper.
- When ready to assemble, season lentils with the salt and pepper stirring to distribute evenly. Blend through the chopped carrots, celery, and red onion. Stir in the fresh chopped mint and parsley. A little at a time begin pouring in the dressing over the lentils stirring well throughout while dressing absorbs. Taste the salad for seasoning and add in a bit more salt and pepper as desired. Check seasoning again adding in a bit more fresh squeezed lemon juice or a touch more olive oil according to taste. Serve salad warm topped with goat cheese crumbles.