Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnut and Mint

I have a habit I cannot kick, and it is Ottolenghi's cookbooks.  This is the sixth recipe I have cooked from either Plenty (2011) or Jerusalem (2012), and for Valentine's Day, the husband bought me Ottolenghi (2013).  In the past three years, Ottolenghi's prolific cookbook writing has only fueled the fire. Now if only Ten Speed Press or Chronicle Books would recognize how much I love Ottolenghi and send me advance copies of the cookbooks gratis.  I wait patiently and without expectation.

Here's what I have made from his cookbooks (and I'll have this one and even one more after this entry to add.  Clearly I have a serious problem.): 

I love these cookbooks mostly for their vegetarian fare.  In fact, the only recipe that I have made that includes an animal is the salmon, which was divine.  Perhaps someday I'll branch out to his lamb or poultry recipes.  I wait patiently and without expectation.

Part of the reason for the vegetarian focus is that from time to time I like to eliminate meat from my diet.  It's a throwback, yes, to the decade I was a vegetarian, but it also just makes me feel if not a little lighter, at least a little more aware of my food choices.  Further, many of Ottolenghi's recipes are gluten-free: again, a choice I make not because I am intolerant of gluten (indeed, far from it.  I love sourdough bread, and should I ever truly or seriously think about leaving the Bay Area, I would probably have to rethink such a relocation for I would miss the bread).  It is a choice I make again just to be a little more aware from time to time about how much bread I can consume if given free rein.  Which turns out to be a lot.  And what I don't consume, I take over valuable real estate in the freezer with frozen slices of bread to be popped into the toaster when need be.  This is a point of contention with the husband. He believes such real estate be reserved for the best bacon on earth.

The husband is wrong.

Nonetheless, I carry on with my love of all food Ottolenghi with this little recipe for a lentil and celeriac salad.  Celeriac is one of my favorite vegetables--it has all of the glorious pungent taste of celery (a taste I really do enjoy) without all the fussiness of the celery strings and an added earthy, nutty taste.  While the root isn't pretty--what, with all its knobby ugliness--it is really quite a solid vegetable to take you through the winter, especially when it appears spring will never spring (even I am getting antsy for spring, and I haven't been buried in snow or been forced to withstand sub-zero temperatures).  

Bonus, this recipe is just as good the next day as a satisfying cold lunch.  (Ah, an at-work lunch.  A lazy weekend repast.  Picnics, anyone?)

Finally, I have returned from my week in the cabin.  I have one more Ottolenghi recipe to report back on that I made while I was up there.  Next entry, I will tell you all a little about what I learned will alone for a week.  Mostly, it's that I like to talk.

My mother will tell you that she knew that already and didn't need me to go away for a week to find that out. 

One Year Ago: Blood Orange, Goat Cheese and Beet Salad
Two Years Ago: Chicken with Cauliflower and Red Peppers
Three Years Ago: Celery Root and Wild Rice Chowder
Four Years Ago: Swiss Chard Flan

Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnut and Mint
Adapted from  Plenty
You can also find the recipe straight from Ottolenghi's website.  

Serves 4

1/3 cup hazelnuts, skin on
1 cup puy* lentils
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
1 small celeriac, about 1.5lbs, peeled and cut in to 1/2 inch cubes
3 tbsp olive oil**
2 tbsp hazelnut oil**
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp mint, chopped
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp chopped fresh mint

*I used red, and they were very tasty but mushy.  If you care about appearances puy or any other firm lentil; if you don't care, use whatever lentil you have on hand.

**I find that Ottolenghi uses a lot of oil for my taste.  I reduced the olive oil to 3 tbsp from 4 and the hazelnut oil from 3 tbsp to 2.  Feel free to add it back.

1.  Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Scatter the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let them cool before roughly chopping.

2.  Place the lentils, water, bay leaves and thyme in to a small saucepan and bring to the boil.  Let them simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

3.  Meanwhile in another saucepan cook the celeriac in boiling, well-salted water for 8-12 minutes, or until just tender.  Drain and set aside.

4.  Place the hot lentils in a large bowl (hot lentils will absorb more of the dressing).  Mix them together with the olive oil, 2 tbsp of hazelnut oil, the vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add the celeriac and toss it all gently together.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

5.  To serve, stir in hazelnuts and mint (and save a little of each for garnish).


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