Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Review Series: #1.2 – More from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking

I have to admit it: I gravitate towards Heidi Swanson’s cheesiest recipes. In my last post, I brought you her warm quinoa with oozing Tallegio. Now I bring you a crunchy crostini with chive speckled goat cheese and pearly lentils.

Before I move on to the recipe, a word about the book, now that I’ve spent a little more time with it.

Yep, it’s health food. It’s a nice place to find wholesome, fresh ideas, and to experiment with whole ingredients—let’s be honest: ingredients you’re likely to find in the health food store (teff flour, wild rice flour and amaranth, to name a few).

And that’s just fine. Swanson isn’t preachy, just earnest. And frankly, when she told me to use whole grain baguette (as she did for the crostini recipe), I opted for white baguette because that’s what I found on my way home. No biggie. But the spirit is to use as many whole, natural and interesting ingredients as possible, and I respect that. It’s just that I tend to gravitate towards cheese…

For these crostini, Swanson recommends beluga lentils. Beluga lentils are deep black and firm, which makes them look like the glossy onyx caviar. I suspect that’s the point. I used French lentils, which also hold their shape nicely.

Lentil Crostini with Chive Speckled Goat Cheese
Adapted from a recipe in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking
Makes enough to pass around at a small party

For the lentils:
1 ¼ cups dry beluga or French lentils, picked over for small stones, and rinsed
4 cups of water
1 or 2 teaspoons sea salt

For the crostini:
1/3 cup cold-pressed olive oil
1 whole-wheat baguette, cut on a bias into ¼ inch-thick slices
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, halved

For the goat cheese spread:
8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
A splash of milk
A large bunch of fresh chives, washed and finely chopped (with a few longer snips reserved for garnish)
Fine-grained sea salt, to taste

First, make the lentils. In a large saucepan, bring the lentils and water to a boil. Bring down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender but still whole.  Add the salt and stir. Drain the lentil and set them aside.

For your crostini: Set the oven to 350 F. With a pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of each slice with the olive oil. Set on a rack, in a single layer, and place in the oven for about ten minutes. They should come out lightly golden.  When they are just cool enough to handle, use the cut sides of your garlic to gently rub one face of each toast.

Now, make the goat cheese spread. In a medium sized bowl, use a fork to mash up the cheese. Add just enough milk to give it a nice, spreadable consistency. Incorporate the chives, and add salt to taste.

To assemble each crostini, spread a spoonful of chive cheese on the garlicky face of the toast, and top with a small spoonful of lentils. Garnish with chives, pile onto a plate, and serve.

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