Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lentil Milanese

An Italian Delight...now made with lentils!!!

Spicy Lentil Candles was recently inspired (not by a reader comment, because no one ever makes them) but by a trip to the delightful restaurant, Mulberry's, in Lackawanna.  Mike ordered veal milanese and we thought to ourselves, "how can we do this with lentils?"  What follows are instructions for this delicious experiment.  Enjoy.

1.  The lentil portion starts with a lentil loaf with a few flavor modifications.  To capture Italian flavors, substitute the ginger with 4 cloves of minced garlic and the
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro with 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley.

Make this loaf the day before so it is chilled and firm and will bread and fry well. 

Steaming carrots and cooking lentils for the loaf
Everything ready to be blended into a loaf

The baking loaf

2.  Prepare 3 pie plates for breading.  1 contains flour, 1 contains 2 beaten eggs, 1 contains seasoned bread crumbs.  Slice the cold prepared lentil loaf into 1/2 inch thick slices.  First dredge in the flour and tap off excess.  Next dip the loaf into the egg.  Finally dredge in the bread crumbs, pressing firmly until they adhere on all sides to completely coat the piece of lentil loaf.

Breading Process

All breaded and ready to go

3.  Fry the breaded loaf in olive oil until golden brown on both sides.  You'll know it's time to flip it when the golden color starts to be visible up the edges of the loaf.  Set the fried piece on paper towels to drain.

Hot fried loaves
 4.  Make the salad.  The dressing is very simple.  Just zest and juice a lemon, whisk in some olive oil and add salt and pepper.  Toss a handful of arugula per serving with the dressing and place atop the breaded and fried lentil slice.  Add some sliced cherry tomatoes, and shred some Parmesan cheese over top.  

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Real Veggie Yummwich

I sometimes suffer disappointment when eating out a restaurants when I experience a mind-menu disconnect.  Basically I read a menu item, imagine it in my mind as some delicious creation, and when it comes to the table, the menu item is shockingly far from being anything like what I imagined.  This scenario does not always end in disappointment because sometimes the things that arrive are different from what I imagined but still delicious.  But then sometimes the food that arrives is just gross.

I suffered extreme disappointment at Betty's restaurant when I ordered the "Roasted Veggie Yummwich."  Their menu describes this sandwich as follows:

"Roasted Veggie Yummwich . . . . . $9.25
roasted eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red and green peppers,
onions, garlic, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and fresh herbs;
with lemon garlic mayo, asiago cheese, sprouts and tomatoes
in a large flour tortilla"

The thing that came out contained all these items (maybe) but they had been diced into such tiny pieces that nothing was clearly recognizable.  It was also greasy.

What follows is my recipe for a true veggie yummwich for people who love vegetables and enjoy eating food that does not appear to be pre-chewed. 

1 ciabatta loaf (makes 4 sandwiches)
1/2 small (4 oz.) goat cheese log rolled in herbs

1/2 sweet onion sliced on medium setting on mandoline (I love love love using the madoline because it does such a great job slicing all these veggies evenly and quickly.)
1 zucchini sliced on medium setting on mandoline
1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 eggplant cut into rounds
 handful fresh arugula. 

1.  Heat oil in pan and saute onions and peppers until soft.
2.  When peppers and onions are almost done, push them to the side of the pan.  Add the zucchini to the pan and cook until tender.  Season veggies with salt and pepper.
3.  Meanwhile oil a baking sheet and roast lightly salted eggplant in a 400 oven, turning once, until soft.

To assemble the sandwiches:
4.  Cut the ciabatta loaf in half lengthwise and then slice each half so you have a base and top for your sandwich.
5.  Spread the base with the softened goat cheese.
6.  Add a light layer of arugula.
7.  Add a layer of peppers and onions.
8.  Add a layer of eggplant.
9.  Add a layer of zucchini slices.  (the thin slices will almost look like slices of deli meat when you pile them on.)
10.  Place the top of the bread on the sandwich, press down slightly and using a sharp knife cut each half diagonally into two triangle sandwiches.

This sandwich will only cost you $2.78 per sandwich ($11.12 for 4 sandwiches)!  So for about the same price of going to Betty's and being severely disappointed by yourself you can invite three friends over for lunch to have a delicious meal and a great time.  We ate two of the sandwiches for dinner, and wrapped the other two up overnight to take for lunch the next day, and that turned out quite well also.

Of course, you could take inspiration from the list of ingredients on Betty's sandwich and modify this recipe to your tastes.  I personally think there is just too much going on in that sandwich, and perhaps that's why everything needed to be in such small pieces.  Regardless, I prefer my sandwich because I would rather enjoy fewer ingredients in a more meaningful way.  Also, I think the substitution of herbed goat cheese does a much better job of imparting flavor, richness and creaminess than using a combination of melting cheese and flavored mayo, which mostly just added greasiness.

Tell me what's in your veggie sandwich!