Lentils become a different class of legume in the summer. No more hot and heavy soups or darkly fragrant dals. Now is the time for chilled salads. The Mediterranean seeps into our food, liberally sprinkling everything with lemon juice and olive oil.
Again I turned to Bittman's vegetarian cookbook; almost all my other cookbooks are in storage until I finish moving—and Vegetarian Times didn't inspire me with one recipe this month. I was seeking something with lemons in it. A few days ago George asked me if I had ever eaten a lemon, and it turns out that I had only sucked on one for puckering purposes. George said lemons taste like candy. He eats them as if they were oranges. Sweltering in the North Carolinian heat, we took a chilled lemon from our refrigerator and cut it into wedges. I bit into one and reeled from the burst of tartness and tang. It was Awesome.
So I was delighted to discover Bittman's recipe for lentil salad with chunks of lemon. The recipe calls for cooked lentils tossed with juice of 1 lemon plus chunks of lemony flesh from another lemon. Then you mix in shallot, capers, olive oil, salt, and pepper. It's important to toss the lentils with everything else while they're still hot from cooking so that they absorb everything. It tasted excellent while still warm—even George liked it, and he's been a picky puss lately. I thought it would taste even better after chilling.
I was wrong. It was ruined! The shallots just overwhelmed everything else with onion-ness. George said they should have been cooked. I could have poured boiling water over them or steamed them or sautéed them or something. Or maybe I should have just left them out. In any case, Beware the Onions.
Getting to the party - We have a lot of summer birthdays in my family, which, in addition to the summer I spent running a little cake-making business from my kitchen, has taught ...