Peter Miller says, "Make this with a light touch so you can taste the different ingredients involved. And serve it in smaller portions than you might imagine—let people come back for seconds. It is a nod to pesto and a salute to yogurt.
You can buy baby spinach year-round. But if it is spring, buy true baby spinach, the smaller leaves of the early variety; they will have a subtler taste and texture. Wash and dry either type well; the leaves will not chop or tear cleanly if still damp." Adapted slightly from Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal (Harry N. Abrams, 2014). —Genius Recipes
pine nuts or chopped walnuts
fresh basil leaves
cooked lentils (small green Puy, or any other that will hold its shape)
At home: Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts or walnuts and cook until lightly toasted, 5 to 7 minutes. Lay them out on a wooden cutting board to cool, then chop them roughly to the size of the lentils.
If your knife is sharp enough to slice the spinach and basil leaves without bruising them, gently cut them into bite-size pieces. Otherwise, tear them by hand.
Place the lentils in a bowl and mix in the spinach, basil, parsley, and garlic (note: If you'd like the spinach and basil to hold their green form better, add them toward the end instead). Squeeze the lemon into the lentils, mix, and then fold in the yogurt. Mix again, then slowly pour in the oil, stirring, as you do, to combine. At this point, taste the mixture, and season with salt and 2 good grindings of pepper. Finally, fold the roasted nuts into the dish, and finish with a drizzle of oil. The dish is now ready to serve.
The lentils and greens will keep in an airtight jar or container in the refrigerator for at least 3 days.
At the shop: For lunch, bring the lentils and greens close to room temperature before serving. They can go on a slice of buttered (and perhaps grilled) bread, or on a lettuce leaf as a salad. Top the lentils with a squeeze of lemon juice, some Parmesan, and a final grind of fresh pepper.
Sometimes, if there are any lentils left after lunch, we serve them as a late-day snack, with a little extra salt at the end.
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore.