3 Tbs blood orange syrup
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs Horseradish mustard
5 Tbs Zinfandel vinegar, or any other white vinegar
1 tsp sea salt , as needed
5 tsp sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs pickled garlic, finely crushed
1/2 cup walnut oil
1 1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt, to taste
3 Tbs fresh fill, finely chopped, + extra for garnish
2 cup Israeli couscous, Pearl couscous
1 tsp sea salt, as needed
1 Meyer lemon , zested, freshly squeezed
1 small eggplant
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup walnut, dry roasted, chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned, seeded, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, roasted, skinned, sliced
1 Tbs Tabasco sauce, to taste
1 clove garlic, finely crushed
2 Tbs dill, finely chopped, + extra for garnish
1/3 tsp agar powder, or gelatin
1/2 cup water
1 cup French Green Puy lentils
1 tsp black peppercorns, freshly ground
For the vinaigrette: I used almost the same ingredients as the one used for my savory goat cheese panna cotta. In a bowl, dissolve one tablespoon of sugar in the Zinfandel vinegar. Add the mustards, blood orange syrup, salt and whisk in 3 tablespoons of walnut and 1/3 cup of olive oil. Add the pickled garlic. Season with salt and white pepper.
Pour the vinaigrette into the mixed vegetables and lentils mix. Plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.
For the Israeli couscous: Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add the Israeli couscous, bring the liquid back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the pasta is cooked all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 10-12 minutes total. Salt the water half way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and the pasta will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so that the pasta does not stick to the bottom. It may take longer than the cooking time that is written on the box. When the pasta is cooked (cooked inside and out but still in shape and firm), drain the pasta (do NOT rinse). Transfer the cooked pasta to a bowl. Add half the amount of the Meyer lemon juice and its zest. Season with salt. Let the Israeli couscous cool down to room temperature. Add about 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette. Mix well. Plastic-wrap the bowl, then chill in the refrigerator until the rest of the preparation is ready.
For the lentils: Wash the lentils. Discard any floating lentils and odd-shaped grains. Soak the lentils overnight. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the lentils, bring the liquid back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the lentils for about 20-25 minutes total. Salt the water half way through the cooking process and keep stirring every now and then so that the lentils don't stick to the bottom. The lentils should be tender but still firm. Drain the lentils, then transfer to an iced bath for about 3 minutes to stop the cooking process. Drain and discard all the liquid. Add fresh dill and about 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette. Mix well. Plastic-wrap the bowl, then chill in the refrigerator until the rest of the preparation is ready.
For the eggplant pulp: Preheat your oven to 450°F. Slice the eggplants lengthwise in 2 pieces. Layer a cookie sheet on top of a cooling rack, then place the eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle with kosher salt and let the eggplant on the side for about 30 minutes. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Place the 2 pieces of eggplant flesh down on a greased baking sheet. Bake the eggplant for about 15 minutes. The skin should be black and blistered. Remove from the oven, then cover with aluminum foil. Let the eggplant cool down for about 10 minutes. Gather all the pulp of the eggplant. Discard the skin, stem and seeds.
For the red bell pepper caviar: Blend the eggplant pulp, onion, 2 teaspoons of sugar, fresh garlic, Tabasco and the rest of the lemon juice into a food processor until the mixture is smooth. Add about 1/2 cup of olive oil. Add the sliced roasted bell pepper (reserve a little for decoration at the end) and the crushed walnut. Pulse about 3-4 times. There should still be chunks of bell peppers visible. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
For the red bell pepper gelée: In a bowl, dissolve the agar powder into 1/4 cup of water. In a small saucepan, heat about 1/4 cup water. As soon as the water in bubbly, add the dissolved agar and blend with a mini-whisk constantly for about 10 seconds. Remove from the heat. Add the agar mixture to the red bell pepper caviar. Mix well. Immediately start to assemble the dish.
Assembly time: Line up 8 salad plates. Place a circle cutter on each plate. Spoon a first layer of lentils. Place another layer of red bell pepper gelée. Then cover with a layer of Israeli couscous. Let the gelée set for about 10 minutes.
When serving, gently remove the circle cutter. Decorate with a few sprigs of fresh dill and slices of roasted red bell pepper on the side when you're ready to serve.
Serve with a piece of baguette.
1 cup of lentils will expand to a little more than 2 cups after cooking. French Green Puy lentils were originally grown in Puy, in the mountainous region of France. Their texture is a lot firmer than the other varieties. It holds it shape better and is often used for this kind of dish.
Roasting bell peppers is pretty easy. Wash the bell pepper, pat dry, then brush with oil. Place a grill on your stove, then char all the skin of the bell pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Wash the bell pepper under running tap water, the skin will come right off. Seed it, then slice the bell pepper.
When you blend all the ingredients for the red bell pepper mixture, make sure to add the walnuts at the end so the dish still gets some crunch.
Agar agar powder is a good gelatin substitute for vegans and vegetarians. It is derived from seawood and is cooked the same way you would use gelatin powder. It is widely used in Asia.
Israeli couscous, also called Pearl couscus, is a grain-shaped pasta that keeps a firm al-dente texture when it is cooked. I usually cook this ingredient and serve it as a salad during summer time.