A few weeks ago, my favourite cousin Gary came to visit me for a few days. I love my family, and I have a whole slew of awesome cousins. So, when I say that Gary is my favourite cousin, know that he has beaten out out a dozen or so other amazing cousins for this title.
I decided that Gary was my favourite cousin when I when I was four years old. He had met me as a baby, but my first memory of him is when I was four and he was a teenager. My mother had told me that my cousin Gary was a musician, so I invented a song to sing for him. I remember Gary really listening to my little composition with great interest and enthusiasm. Even at four it was very important to me that my work be taken seriously, and so Gary became my favorite cousin.
In the many years since then, Gary has only grown in my estimation. As a teenager, he introduced to a huge amount of excellent music, most memorably Tom Waits. Gary could recite the lyrics of entire songs from Swordfishtrombone with storytelling skill that would have made our Irish grandpa proud.
When I moved to NYC to go to school at the tender age of 18, Gary was the only family member that I got see on a regular basis. He rolls through New York fairly often, because he is a sound engineer who tours with artists including Sarah MacLaughlin, KD Lang and lately Adam Lambert with Queen. When I became a freelance puppeteer and started spending all of my time on tour and in theaters, Gary was the family member who really understood my career.
Then Gary married Constance, a creative and beautiful woman, who possesses a discerning eye in all things artistic and aesthetic. More importantly, Constance is discerning in matters of the heart and soul. I got divorced in my late 20s and at the time I was experiencing a lot of panic about my life choices. Constance probably has no idea how much her perspective and love and example helped me through those years. To top it off, Gary and Constance produced two of my most favourite little girls on the planet. Their daughters were our flower girls when I remarried.
I could go on and on, but since this is a food blog I will end by saying that Gary and Constance are both excellent cooks and have given me many recipes that I make over and over again including Smoked Salmon Hash wiht Fresh Herbs and Jicama Pineapple Slaw. The Jicama Pineapple Slaw was literally the first thing I ever posted on this blog!
On his most recent visit, Gary made this lentil salad. He got the recipe from a caterer that was providing the food for the crew at a music venue. He made the lentil salad for a birthday party that I was throwing for my friend Sxip. I served it with Andalusian Honey Lamb Stew and they went very well together. Since then, I have served it with Roasted, Spiced Carrots with Tahini Lemon Sauce and Pistachios and that was excellent as well!
Gary had four, very good pieces of advice about this salad.
- Don’t overcook the lentils.
- Take the time to mince the red onion very, very small. Everything in this salad should be roughly the same size.
- This salad can withstand some improvisation. It will work with a wide variety of oils and vinegars and you should not fret too much if you are missing one of the spices from the dressing.
- This salad keeps well, making it ideal for a potluck or buffet. Just remember to start it a day ahead, since the lentils have to marinate in the curried dressing.
COUSIN GARY’S CURRIED LENTIL SALAD
For the dressing
- 3/4 cup oil of your choice
- 1/2 cup vinegar of your choice
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon mace
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together in a big non reactive bowl.
For the salad
- 1 pound of red lentils
- 1 cup of currants
- 1/3 cup capers
- 1 and 1/2 cup fine chopped red onion
- Bring a pot of water to boil.
- Wash lentils and throw them in the boiling water. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. The lentils should still be firm.
- Rinse the lentils in cold water and drain well.
- Toss the lentils with the curried dressing and store overnight. Give it a stir once or twice (like before you go to bed and again when you wake up) to be sure that all of the lentils are marinating.
- At least two hours before serving, add the currants, capers and onion to the lentils and toss to combine.
- Serve at room temperature or cold.
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