This month’s Recipe Redux challenged use to make a dish displaying creative cuts for fruits or veggies. Originally I wanted to do something cool and trendy like spiralized veggies such as zucchini, summer squash, butternut squash, cucumbers or beets, but that seemed like an obvious choice. I decided to go with something a little more old school. More of a classic, yet not well known knife cut technique rather than something super creative. It’s what you call a roll cut, or oblique cut. In culinary school and restaurant work, cooks must pay extra close attention to the size and uniformity of their cuts, not only for the aesthetic reasons, but also for even cooking time. The worst for me was always a brunoise which looks like a tiny perfect 1/8” x 1/8” x 1/8” square. It’s kind of a pain in the a$$ .
I used the roll cut often with carrots while working in a Seattle restaurant. I love this cut so much because it doesn’t take much skill or precision, yet still lends a nice angled look. Kind of like you know what you’re doing with a knife! The whole point of the roll cut is for all of the pieces of long vegetables that may not be the same width all the way down, like a carrots, to cook evenly. This cut gives more surface area, allowing the vegetable to cook faster. It’s especially popular in Chinese cuisine, especially stir fires. Probably the most difficult part of this cut is how to describe it to you! You can use this cut with anything long or stalk like. Persian cucumber, zucchini, celery, asparagus and even broccoli stalks would work. Ya know what…instead of me trying to describe this cut in a rambling paragraph, just watch this video from Chowhound and Aida Mollenkamp.
I love this dish because it also contains one of the humblest and most nutritious foods there are: lentils. Lentils are classified as legumes and even more specifically, they are pulses. Pulses are dried beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas. Lentils come in all sorts of colors and sizes. Most common are the typical brown lentils, but there’s also tiny black beluga lentils, Spanish pardina, le puy green lentils that look like little stones, golden lentils, red lentils and more! I love lentils because they are so versatile and are a blank canvas waiting for your creative, yet simple flavors .
Lentils keep their shape for salads, soups and hot sides, but you can also incorporate them into veggie loaves and veggie burgers, hummus and even smoothies. Yes, I said smoothies! I even like adding them to pasta for an additional textural surprise. They are also incredibly easy to cook. All you have to do is boil in water and drain. Easy peasy. Be sure to sift through the lentils before cooking. It’s not highly likely that you will find anything, but every once in a while, a little stone shows up and I’m sure you don’t want to crack your tooth on one of those. Ya know what’s one of the greatest parts about lentils? They are CHEAP! If you are on a budget, they are pretty much the perfect food.
Lentils are rich in fiber, protein, good carbs, folate, manganese, iron, phosphorous and copper. I’m trying to say that these babies are good for you.
So let’s recap here. Lentils are:
- Easy to cook
- Plant based
Dried lentils can double or even triple in size, so when they're done cooking, measure out 3 cups. If you have any left, save for another use like blending into a smoothie! This dish can easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese.
- 1-1/4 cups brown, green or black lentils (need 3 cups cooked lentils for salad)
- 3 cups water
- 1 pound of carrots, peeled and roll cut, about 1" Check out this short how-to video
- 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup packed parsley leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup packed mint leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
- Place lentils and water in a medium saucepan and turn heat to high. As soon as water comes to a boil, lower heat to low and simmer until lentils are firm yet tender. Depending on the type and age of your lentils, this could take 20-30 minutes. Drain and cool.
- While lentils are cooking, toss roll cut carrots with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and garlic powder. Place carrots on a sheet pan and roast in oven until firm yet tender, about 20 minutes. Cool when done.
- In a large bowl, mix the cooled lentils, carrots, parsley, cilantro, mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, feta remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
- Add more lemon juice and/or salt to taste.
Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.