Monday, July 19, 2010

Radio Koek: Pesto Lentil Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella

I must have had a childhood accident that rewired something in my head, and from then on my brain accidentally intercepted airwaves from music radio stations... I believe this because almost every morning I wake up with a different song in my head — a song so random and irrelevant to my life that this is the only explanation I can come up with. One morning it’ll be Rock the Casbah. The next, On the Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady. The next, a jingle I heard on The Simpsons years ago.

Life is a mystery.

I like Jack Handey’s take on mankind’s little idiosyncrasies: 'Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word itself. MANKIND. Basically, it's made up of two separate words: "mank" and "ind". What do these words mean? It's a mystery, and that is why so is mankind.'

The song running through my head today is Funky Cold Medina... actually now it’s Rock the Casbah because I just remembered it a minute ago when I was typing up this post. Damnation! If history repeats itself, if memory serves, this particular ditty stuck around in my head for about five days.

'What’s all this got to do with Pesto Lentil Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella?' you might be wondering. Well done. Excellent question. The link is subtle, but if you really think about it, it’s actually quite obvious.

This salad is very nice, by the way. It's gorgeous as an antipasti with some salami, as a side to chicken or fish, or on its own with some crusty bread. I don’t need a reason to eat buffalo mozzarella, but if I did, this salad would be it.

BM is just about one of the most gorgeous foods known to mankind (ahem). It’s got a clean, light taste that totally disassociates itself from the cow’s milk variety. It’s like the scent of fresh sweat on someone you’re really, really attracted to. Okay, so now I’ve probably put you off it for life, but I promise, it's worth trying — and you’ll see what I mean (in a good way).

God, it’s always a struggle not to end a post with the words 'Bon appetite!' You know, in a clich├ęd, ironic, post-modern Julia Child rip-off kind of way. Is it just me?

Pesto Lentil Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella
Serves 2

1 cup lentils
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 large handful basil leaves
1 fat clove garlic
1 cup pine nuts, toasted
Juice of half a lemon
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
2 balls buffalo mozzarella
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Toss the tomatoes in a little sea salt, and allow to sit for 10 minutes so that the salt can draw out some of the tomato juices. I find this doubles the flavour of the tomato (could it just be the salt?), but also, the tomato juices get mixed in with the dressing when it finally joins the rest of the salad, and this is a very, very good thing.
2. Simmer the lentils in the chicken stock until they are cooked, but still have a little bite. Drain and allow to cool a little.
3. In the meantime, chop the basil roughly, then bash it up in a pestle and mortar with the garlic and a third of the pine nuts, till it's nice and pasty. This isn’t proper pesto, but Parmesan doesn’t have a place in this dish (proper pesto usually includes Parmesan, as you well know).
4. In a mixing bowl, combine the warm (but not hot) lentils, tomato, pesto and chilli. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Add the lemon juice, a good glug of olive oil (about 3 tbsp — okay, it’s more like 5, but I like to drown my salads in olive oil) and stir until the whole mixture is fragrant, glistening and evenly flecked with emerald.
5. Tear the mozzarella into chucks. (Resist the urge to pop a piece into your mouth just yet — it is nearly impossible to stop yourself devouring the whole lot before it’s even joined the salad. Or perhaps that’s just me... Better to err on the side of caution, don’t you think?)
6. Arrange the chunks on plates and spoon over the lentil salad. Top with a final drizzle of olive oil (you heard me) and serve.

The shareeeeef don’t like it... ROCK the casbah, ROCK the casbah...


  1. What an interesting combination of flavors in your lentil salad. Very creative.

    It would have been fine with me to end with Bon Appetite, Julia style. Sometimes you just feel like it, don't you?

  2. That is a great recipe! I love lentils and mozarella. A perfect combination!



  3. I love Rock the Casbah! What a fabulous salad for summer. Such bright and vibrant flavors and the buffalo mozzarella is totally yummy!

  4. I love Buffalo Mozarella and I make sure I get the genuine product, and not the plastic tasting cheese.

  5. i love lentils! i have some for lunch today :) your recipe is fantastic!
    have a sweet day,

  6. We have buffalo and we have mozarella but no buffalo mozarella! This salad looks good! Love the colors!:D

  7. Your salad looks gorgeous and well worth trying.
    Rock the Casbah isn't as bad as it seems. I get stuck with Jingle Bells in the middle of July. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  8. I agree, something about fresh real BM that makes the pasturized processed store variety taste like an Ashlee Simpson live performane sounds-prerecorded.
    ...the pilot tumed to the cockpit radio blare...
    Damnit now it'll be in my head for five days!!

  9. Oooooooh,...aaaaaaaah: This lentils dish looks fabulous!! I will make this tomorrow night! I so love a good buffalo mozzerella!

  10. That's a beautiful salad. Almost brings to mind a song. . . (almost). ;) And I LOVE that Jack Handy quote! I've copied it for future reference. Thanks!

  11. You always make recipes that really speak to me, and this great lentil dish is no exception. Lentils, garbanzos, and other dried beans find their way on my table at least once a week in soup or salad form. Just love them... and your site.

  12. This is a wonderful salad! Love the lentils and the cheese combo, have never seen it before; you could be cooking in my kitchen I totally dig your inspiration.

  13. I was nodding my head and smiling throughout this post. I too wake up everyday with a different song in my head. I sing it or hum it out loud all day and it drives my husband crazy. Of course, it is rarely a song that I like... Onward. This is a fascinating combination. I wouldn't have put lentils, pesto, and mozzarella together but I have no doubt that this was delicious. Have you had burrata? Mozzarella outside and cream inside. Yum.

  14. Unique and delicious combination Robyn, I like this :)

  15. I wake up with songs in my head all the time and kind of wish that they had some subconscious meaning to my life. I haven't found any yet, but I'll let you know if I do!

    In the meantime I'm going to have to make this...buffalo mozzarella is a favorite of mine. And pesto - amazing!

  16. I love brown lentils, never put them with pesto before but sounds like a good idea. I think we should all impersonate Julia Child at every opportunity!

  17. Yum! This looks delicious! And so does that cardamom ice cream below, a must try! I'm new here and really like your blog!

  18. Mank ind. I will ponder this all day.... ha!
    I love this combination of flavor and totally agree that BM is one of the best things in this world. Thanks!

  19. I've tried lentil once and loved it! This looks like another good recipe that I must try!


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  21. Oooh, that looks divine! Nothibg beats buffalo mozzarella... And I thought I was the only one with songs playing in my head. Recently it's been A-Ha's Stay on These Roads non-stop (probably because I saw them in concert 10 days ago and man they are still HOT!) but it's also been My Chemical Romance's "I'm not OK", The Killers' "Human" and "Sam's Town" or Coldplay's "Viva la Vida!". And not to forget the queen of the earworm Lady Gaga's Poker Face!!

  22. Ha ha I am SO glad I found your blog :) LOVE food and also, totally relate to the song-in-head thing... The other night I was struggling to sleep and Pink's "Raise your glass" - only the chorus and two lines from the second verse actually - kept looping through my head! I cried a little bit. But I digress - :)