Thursday, March 05, 2009

Warm Lentil Salad and Snowy Squirrels

The non-vegan in my house is a pretty good cook..this is what he made this week: Hot Lentil Salad. It's really good!

We acquired this recipe while we were in Germany last June. We were staying in a chain hotel (we're b&b peeps but we were with family so compromises were needed!) that had a surprisingly good buffet breakfast and lunch. It feels to me that in America most hotels serve pretty much the same thing..without much variation. I based this on a fair amount of domestic travel for work via tradeshows and conferences. And the quality is average. Average tasting fruit salad with over sized melons chunks with gigantic over sized strawberries. The vegan option is almost always some pasta primavera. B-O-R-I-N-G right? What a great surprise to find a plethora of interesting and yummy vegan options instead at this hotel. H located this lentil salad on the buffet bar and wow, he was smitten. I liked it too but I was too busy making sure that I got to sample everything to focus too much on one thing. Typical: me the big picture person, H is the details person. So lentil salad for lunch and dinner every day for the entire three days in the city of Karlsruhe really made my details guy very very happy. On the last day of our stay, H had to face reality that he and the lentil salad would soon part ways. Before I could blink during our last lunch there, he was gone and suddenly reappeared with the chef. Herr Chef Man was delighted to share his recipe. He claimed he never measures the ingredients and sometimes he just makes the lentil salad into a soup by adding a little more broth. You can also serve this dish hot or's delicious either way!

2 cups brown lentils
2 cups veggie broth or a bouillon cube w/water
1 shredded carrot
1 stalk thinly chopped celery
6 "splashes" red wine vinegar (more or less to taste)
salt and pepper

Soak the lentils in water overnight or for 6-8 hours. Normally we wouldn't soak the lentils ahead of time but Mr. Chefman does so we will here. It also cuts down on the amount of cooking liquid that you need. Drain and rinse.

Chop the onion into smallish pieces. Slice the celery into average slices. In the bottom of a lightly oiled pot, lightly saute the onions and celery until slightly browned.

Add the lentils and broth/bouillon & water.
Cook for about 20 minutes, adding the carrots about 15 minutes into the cooking time.
Test taste to make sure lentils are soft to mushy depending on your preference (I like soft).
Add the vinegar, salt and pepper.

Serve hot or put in the fridge and wait a day. The flavor improves after a day or so and the vinegar taste mellows so it's perfect for leftovers!

Announcer: Now for a brief squirrel break

My neighbor's birdfeeder, my squirrels. The two have collided. At least, my neighbor's new "squirrel-proof bird feeder" has. Do you see where this is going?! There is NO such thing as a squirrel proof feeder! My little rascals are deviously clever. My neighbor jokingly asked me to talk to the squirrels and ask them not to eat the birdseed from his feeder..I countered by telling him (and it's true) that the birds eat the nuts I leave out for the squirrels. Wildlife doesn't care what's for which animal..they are all just a big happy wild bunch. Which led him to email me: "I should just admit that the bird/squirrel distinction is a total fantasy when you're giving out free grain." Yup! Here's one of the culprits aka Smoosh Face Squirrel:

Squirrel of the Snow Mountain (hill, mound, whatever..)

Hiding nuts from the other squirrels. Squirrels will often pretend to dig a hole several times before they actually bury a nut in an effort to confuse their friends as to where the treats are. And no, it doesn't work! Did I say they were clever? Hum..

Proxy on the "munchbox" feeder that her siblings destroyed last month. The Plexiglass is missing (I found it thrown across the lawn!) and the wood on the edges is munched to hell. In concept, the munchbox is a great idea. The lid lifts and the squirrels who figure it out will sit for hours helping themselves. It's adorable to watch. Other squirrels who are perhaps less inclined to figure things out, will sometimes just decide to go right through the wood with their teeth to get what they want. There are few things that can stop a determined Eastern Grey Squirrel! Hence our munchbox is out of commission. I am looking into a new one with copper edges..hopefully that will thwart the little munchers from biting the box that feeds!

Have no doubt: squirrels are major showoffs! "Look at what I can do!"

I wish this picture had turned out better but Mr. Cardinal didn't want to pose. But isn't he a beautiful red?

Finally, we had a ton of snow this week and it was a little different than past storms. I think it fell, melted just a tiny bit and then froze. On the way to the office, we passed this fence decorated with a snow garland worthy of a picture! Every part of the fence had a decoration like this frozen solid but looking like it was going to fall any moment.

Coming this weekend: Ahimsa in Action and my animal rights study group. And yes, probably more squirrels! ;)


Tara said...

That salad looks very good!
And the squirrel photos? I'm in love! They are so fluffy and plump!
Can't wait to read about Ahimsa in Action and your vegan group!

Ricki said...

The salad sounds wonderful! I love lentils but definitely don't make them often enough--what a great recipe to try. :) And wow, talk about a brazen squirrel!!

Mihl said...

I love lentil and carrot salad! I never tried this with brown lentils. so: must make!
Funny what you say about American hotels. My boyfriend always complains how the breakfast buffets in German hotels are always the same! Maybe you two should change locations :D

Jes said...

That lentil salad looks so good! Mmm warm lentils...I could go for some right now...

And seriously, the squirrel cuteness is going to kill me one of these days. The one balancing between the two branches? Ahhhh adorable!

Anonymous said...

Evil blogger - don't know if that first comment went through or not! I was just saying that lentil salads are one of my favourite things. Fast, easy & delicious!

For the Love of Guava said...

OMG! I'm dying! Death by squirrel cuteness!

For the Love of Guava said...

oh and I've been trying to think of fun new ways to eat my lentils!

Maggie said...

I love the squirrel photo where he's holding onto a tree--he looks like Fred Astaire! Great looking lentil salad too, it sounds a lot like my German mother in law's lentil soup. She adds dumplings, which make it really good.