This is the salad I made for lunch the day I moved out of my apartment and into my next-door neighbor’s.
It’s not what you think. Maxence and I have decided that our kitchen and living room — which are, in fact, in the same room — needed a facelift, and after months of imagining, planning, and gathering our strength, it looks like it is finally happening.
It’s anybody’s guess how long it’s all going to take — you know how it is — but at this point we have just come out of the phase that consisted in us boxing up our stuff and cramming it in our bedroom, so the workers could come in on Monday and start ripping things out.
If you don’t know about kohlrabi, you’re in for a crunchy treat.
Fortunately, for the past few years, Maxence and I have been on a steady pruning streak, donating, selling, or recycling those things we didn’t need or love to make more room for those we do, and to enjoy the blissful feeling you get when you look at your living space and there is, indeed, space. (Still, for all that pruning, the number of boxes I ended up needing to pack up my kitchen is classified information.)
Just as fortunately, for the past few weeks, I’d been cooking my way through my food supplies in order to minimize the number of jars and half-eaten packages to be put into boxes, and to avoid having to toss anything from the fridge or freezer. This is something I should really try to do every spring, renovation or no: we had ourselves a few really nice hodgepodge meals during the last few days, involving chicken stock, the last porcini from our foraging expedition last fall, and some potato gnocchi as well.
As for that little detail of where we’re going to live in the interim, we got really lucky: it’sconcert season, and our dear neighbor Peter, who’s a singer, will be traveling a lot over the next month, so he’s letting us stay at his apartment. Our gratitude knows no bounds.
I am especially grateful that it meant I could just carry my jars of starter and water kefir across the landing, without worrying too much about spills or trauma. If you have micro-pets too, I’m sure you can relate.
While I was at it, I packed a basket of condiments and various foods we eat on a daily basis, my trusty little knife (I knew Peter would have knives, and he does, but this is my trusty little knife), a quarter of a pain au levain, assorted scraps from my chocolate stash, and a few pieces of produce that were left in the fridge.
And this means that, on the first morning after moving out, having skipped breakfast because the kitchen had been ripped out the day before and there was just too much to do, I was able to put together a lovely, steadying lunch for myself entirely assembled from the contents of this basket, and centered on this excellent lentil and kohlrabi salad.
If you don’t know about kohlrabi, you’re in for a crunchy treat. It works especially well in a lentil salad, as I recently learned when I staged with my friend Braden at Hidden Kitchen recently. He makes his (actually, on that particular day, I made it) with pink lentils and chives, without sunflower seeds, and with a different dressing, and he serves it as an accompaniment for grilled beef. But I just used what I had and served myself a big bowl of it, chased by a sliced apple, and the last two squares of a stone-ground chocolate bar.
- 200 grams (1 cup) French green lentils, rinsed (substitute other lentils if unavailable)
- 1 small onion or shallot, quartered and thinly sliced (read how not to cry)
- 1 medium kohlrabi, about 370 grams (13 ounces) (read more about kohlrabi)
- 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds, toasted
- a few pinches of ground cumin
- a glug of toasted sesame oil
- a glug of cider vinegar
- sea salt, freshly ground pepper
- In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, onion, and 360 ml (1 1/2 cups) fresh water. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the lentils are cooked through but still pleasantly firm. Fifteen minutes into the cooking, add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Transfer to a colander, rinse briefly under a stream of fresh water, and drain well.
- While the lentils are cooking, prepare the kohlrabi. Trim the wispy stems (use the leaves like you would parsley). Inspect the skin, and use a vegetable peeler to peel off any part that looks a little tough or woody; the soft, pale green parts don't need to be peeled.
- Dice the kohlrabi to form smallish cubes, and put them in a medium salad bowl with the sunflower seeds. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with cumin, dress with a glug each of sesame oil and cider vinegar, and toss to coat.
- When the lentils are cooked and rinsed, add them to the bowl and stir gently to combine. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.