Salsify with Brown Lentils and Hazelnuts

February 17, 2013
by Jack McNulty
Salsify with Brown Lentils and Hazelnuts

I’m not one to generally use recipes I see out of cookbooks. I prefer instead to scan through my books looking for inspiration and flavor matching ideas instead of recipes. But, when I was thumbing through Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, I knew right away I needed to try making his Celeriac and lentils with hazelnut and mint recipe. The combination sounds simply irresistible!

But alas, I gave into my instincts as a cook and decided to make some changes…changes which I believe are better-suited for Switzerland in February.

The first change was replacing the celeriac with salsify…which seemed like such a natural decision for me. Celeriac may be popular in North America or the UK, but I think in mainland Europe it is a bit…well…pedestrian. Salsify on the other hand, is relatively underappreciated. It’s flavor is somewhat akin to asparagus and it is incredibly healthy. Next, I decided to switch from Puy lentils to brown lentils because I think the nuttiness of brown lentils matches better with the hazelnuts in the recipe. Finally, I decided to go for tarragon to dress up the final version of the dish instead of mint. I don’t have anything against mint, but I really don’t think it is appropriate in mid-February.

I’m happy with the outcome, which can be served either hot or cold…and cold is how I will be enjoying this dish as part of my Meatless Monday.

Find out what’s in season at markets throughout Switzerland – and get inspired to cook fresh!

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Salsify with Brown Lentils and Hazelnuts
makes about 6-8 servings

100 gr. roasted hazelnuts
300 gr. brown lentils
9 dl. water
2 fresh bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
8 salsify stalks
olive oil
2 Tbsp. hazelnut oil
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
salt and black pepper
4 Tbsp. chopped tarragon

Get started by roasting the hazelnuts. I place whole hazelnuts on a baking dish, turn on the oven to 150° C and get the hazelnuts in the oven. Set the timer for 30 minutes and that’s it. When the hazelnuts are done, let them cool slightly then rub the skins off (either with bare hands or in a towel). Roughly chop them, making sure to leave some good sized chunks.

The next task is getting the lentils cooked. I like to soak the lentils for about 30 minutes, then drain them. I put 9 dl. of water in a wide pot, add the lentils, bay leaves and thyme sprigs (tip: tie the thyme sprigs together to make fishing them out easier after the lentils cook). Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat so the lentil simmer. Cook for about 15-20 minutes. Begin testing the lentils after 15 minutes to see if you like their consistency. Remember, they will continue to cook slightly once you take them out of the water. When you are happy with the lentils, add a good pinch of sea salt, mix well and allow the lentils to sit in the seasoned water for five minutes. Drain the lentils, then add enough olive oil to moisten them well while tossing. Add the hazelnut oil, red wine vinegar and a generous amount of black pepper. Make sure you do this while the lentils are still warm so they will absorb the flavors from the seasonings. Set the lentils aside until the salsify is finished.

Prepare the salsify by washing them well under running water, then peel them. I think it is a good idea to wear gloves during this process. Cut the salsify into 10-cm pieces and place in a pot with water and lemon juice. Bring the water to a boil and season well with salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and simmer the salsify for about 25-30 minutes. They will be done with still slightly firm but somewhat soft on the exterior. Strain well. Heat about one or two spoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the salsify and gently cook until they starting taking on a golden color. This will take about five minutes. Toss well and adjust the seasoning.

Finish the dish by adding the salsify and hazelnuts to the lentils. Adjust the seasoning well and add the chopped tarragon. Serve hot or cold.