Category: SFH Food Talk & Recipes

The Great Vinaigrette Challenge

After weeks of preparation, the day of The Great Vinaigrette Challenge has arrived. Finally, we will find out which vinaigrette recipe is better – Julia Child’s Lemon-Oil Dressing or Jacques Pépin’s Vinaigrette in a Jar.

If you have not read our two preceding posts, here and here, now is the time to go back and review them. You will see why The Great Vinaigrette Challenge is so important to so many serious gourmands.

Come join me and the staff of the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen as we bring together outstanding recipes by two legendary chefs. We will place them in the spotlight. The distinguished Chef Luna will then put both recipes to the test and answer the important question. – Which vinaigrette is better, Julia’s or Jacques’s?

If you are truly a lover of great food, no matter how humble its place in a multi-course meal, The Great Vinaigrette Challenge will make your day.

Great Vinaigrette Challenge Background

Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen

Allow me, first of all, to thank Monsieur Pierre LeChat for all his work on the two preceding posts. He provided the vital background and technical details you need to understand the importance of this challenge. Most importantly, he has shown you that, in the kitchen, “Two different paths can lead to equally fine results.”

Now, it is my turn to share with you how my staff and I organized and conducted The Great Vinaigrette Challenge.

Chef Luna – A Short Curriculum Vitae

Every food-related contest requires a qualified and unbiased judge. The Serendipity Farmhouse test kitchen was most fortunate to have our long-time associate, Chef Luna, volunteer for this duty.

Chef Luna has been cooking from a very early age. At first, she was self-taught, and her cooking style was that of great experimentation. Later on, she took on employment at the Try Thai Restaurant in Front Royal, Virginia. That is where she developed great skills in East Asian cuisines.

Chef Luna

From there, Chef Luna’s career took a very important turn. She was hired by “an award-winning chef trained at the Connecticut Culinary Institute” to work at Christendom College. Working under the mentorship of this highly qualified Executive Chef, her skills and breadth of knowledge have grown and matured.

Yes, our Test Kitchen had found Chef Luna. She would be the perfect judge for The Great Vinaigrette Challenge.

Let The Great Vinaigrette Challenge Begin

This was a blind test. Two identical tossed salads were arranged on the tasting table. One was tossed with Julia’s Lemon-Oil Dressing. The other was tossed with Jacques’s Vinaigrette in a Jar. Only my Hubby knew for sure which was which.

the great vinaigrette challenge

I spent some time with Chef Luna, and we reviewed Persnickety Pierre’s Five Criteria of Excellence. She was asked to place primary focus on the criterion of achieving fine results in taste and flavor. She had worked with Pierre before and embraced his cooking philosophy. Chef Luna declared that she was up to the task and ready to begin.

I had decided we would hold this once-in-a-lifetime event on neutral ground outside of Rappahannock County. A select audience viewed the tasting challenge. Some had come from over 90 miles away. – The room was totally silent as Chef Luna, using her signature chopsticks, took her first taste.

Throughout the tasting, Chef Luna meticulously recorded her impressions. She compared and contrasted the elements of taste and flavor of the two competing vinaigrettes. This chart contains just a few of her notes.

Salad Dressing ASalad Dressing B
Overall, it blends well with the salad.A bit lighter than Dressing A, though neither A nor B is overly heavy.
Flavor that complements the bitterness of the saladDoesn’t complement the salad as well as Dressing A
There are citrus notes, lemony.Also has slight citrus notes.
A garlic-like elementSaltier than Dressing A.
More vinegary.
Some of Chef Luna’s Tasting Notes

Chef Luna Determines the Winner

great vinaigrette challenge

Chef Luna spent just a bit over five minutes tasting, comparing, recording, and finally deciding. Without hesitation, she had decided on a winner. – – – It was Salad Dressing A!

Immediately, the entire audience rocked the room in a single voice with the question, “Whose recipe is Salad Dressing A?

I came to the front of the tasting table and began to make an announcement. But, as I started to speak, my Hubby began to gesticulate in an odd manner. He wanted to speak to me. I quietly stepped to the side of the room and conferred with my Hubby. He knew I didn’t want to get this wrong. So, he whispered in my ear. I thanked him and turned to face the anxious audience again. – – “It is my distinct pleasure to inform you that the winner of the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen Great Vinaigrette Challenge is … the winner is – Julia Child!

The audience jumped to their feet as Chef Luna invited them all up to the tasting table to sample from each of the salads. Some liked Salad Dressing A. Some thought Salad Dressing B was better. – Would the judge change her mind?


Yes, there was an official decision. And Chef Luna had no reservations. She would not second guess herself. Her decision will stand.

As Pierre LeChat had said, “Two different paths can lead to equally fine results.” So, even though there is an official decision, you should hold a vinaigrette challenge in your own home. Let your family decide the question: Which vinaigrette is better, Julia’s or Jacques’s? Both recipes are listed below.

If you’ve enjoyed this series of posts, please make a comment below. If you want to have some more light-hearted culinary adventures, join up and be an e-mail follower.

make a vinaigrette.

Julia's Lemon-Oil Dressing


  • 1 Tbs minced shallots or scallions
  • 2 tsp Dijon-style prepared mustard
  • 2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • About ¼ tsp salt or more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup excellent olive oil


  • Put the minced scallions, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small mixing bowl and whisk until well blended.
  • Pour in the oil slowly, in droplets at first, and then in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the oil has been completely emulsified and the dressing has thickened.
  • Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  • Use immediately; if the dressing separates while standing, whisk to blend.


Jacques's Vinaigrette in a Jar


  • A 12-ounce glass jar with a screwtop lid


  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbs Dijon-style mustard
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup red- or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil or peanut oil or a mixture of the two


  • Put all the ingredients in the jar, screw on the lid, and shake very well.
  • Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more oil or vinegar, as you like.
  • Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks, and shake to blend before using.


Jacques Pépin’s Vinaigrette – Is It Better than Julia’s?

You want to make a vinaigrette for your guests. It has to be just right, but you’re running out of time. What do you do?

In our last post, we saw how Julia Child makes her Lemon-Oil Dressing. Now, you are going to learn how Jacques Pépin makes his classic Vinaigrette in a Jar. Jacques takes a different approach than does Julia. Although he uses many of the same ingredients, the proportions for those ingredients bear no resemblance to Julia’s.

Come join the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen as we recreate Jacques’s recipe. In this second post of a three-part series, we focus on development of superior taste and flavor. The reason for this will become abundantly clear in our next post. It will be then that Chef Luna, in a blind test, will answer for us this most important question.

Which vinaigrette is better? – Jacques’s or Julia’s?

Continue reading “Jacques Pépin’s Vinaigrette – Is It Better than Julia’s?”

Liver & Onions in Honor of Tim

Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen

In March of 2019, my Hubby committed the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen to a challenge. He committed us to making liver and onions in honor of his brother Tim’s birthday. He even went out on a limb (as he often does) and said that the SFH Test Kitchen staff would attempt to master Sauté of Calf’s Liver with Onions from Julia Child’s book The Way to Cook.

My hotshot husband figured that we in the kitchen staff would all jump to the opportunity. That’s because we had watched Julia make the dish on a video. He said Julia made it look easy. Surely, we could pull it off. But, when Hubby says we, he usually means me.

So, let me tell you the story about how the SFH kitchen staff staged a mutiny. In fact, they even went so far as to maroon Ol’ Fuzz Face in a desolate and deserted kitchen as a punishment.

Continue reading “Liver & Onions in Honor of Tim”

Upside Down with Julia Child

Pierre LeChat - the signature icon for the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen

Love of fine food filled the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen on St. Valentine’s day. Miss Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face returned to Julia Child’s Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne to honor this day. Meanwhile, Mr. Monte prepared Valentine Pie for his highly favored humans.

The Test Kitchen staff had two goals in mind – first, to simplify their cooking methods and second, to refine their execution of basic culinary techniques.

If you want to know if they achieved their goals, continue reading on. Should you desire to see the recipe first, just click Jump to Recipe below.

Continue reading “Upside Down with Julia Child”

Pimento Cheese IHO Mom

February is my Mom’s birthday month. When I think of the best of Southern tradition and style, and sometimes sassiness, that was my Mom. She was filled with a joy for life and good food. One of her favorite dishes was Southern-style pimento cheese. Perhaps that’s why it is one of my favorites as well.

So, let me share with you the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen adaptation of QUEENREYNEY’s version of Southern Pimento Cheese.

Test Results & Commentary

I’ve been using this adapted recipe for many years now. The purpose of this test kitchen event was to document the process while honoring my Mom on her birthday. – Once again, this recipe distinguished itself, as you can see by my smile of satisfaction

As is our standard operating procedure (SOP), I adhered to Persnickety Pierre’s Test Kitchen Philosophy. Also, I want to thank Hubby for his admirable assist in this test.

1. Level of the challenge:

This recipe confronts even the most stouthearted of chefs with a great challenge. What might that be? A chef can turn to the wisdom of practical experience to resolve most cooking dilemmas. However, there is not a one of us who dares to solve the riddle of proper spelling in the English language. After all, English has adopted so many foreign words and there is no authority in existence that can competently standardize two competing spellings.

And, Peeps, so it is with this simple recipe. I dare say that there is not a person among you, who can say for sure whether the proper spelling for those minced red bits in this dish is ‘pimento cheese’ or ‘pimiento cheese’. If you really think you can, please feel free to make a comment at the end of this post. – For now, I am taking Mr. Monte’s word and using ‘pimento cheese’ throughout this post.

2. Selection of good-quality ingredients:

Hubby forgot to add the salt and pepper shakers to this staging of ingredients. There’s nothing required for this recipe that can’t be found in your local grocery store. Many substitutions will work just fine with this recipe, with one huge exception. My Mom told us girls: “Never use anything except Hellman’s Mayo!”

3. Use of cooking techniques:

This is not cooking. This is just mixing of ingredients once they are prepped. My trusty Proctor-Silex 3 hand mixer was more than adequate for the job. Things can get a little messy, so I put the mixing bowl in the sink to keep the mess to a minimum.

4. Development of superior taste and flavor:

Don’t be afraid to use two or more jalapeños in this dish. The cream cheese tends to reduce the overall spiciness. The use of extra-sharp, sharp ,or mild cheddar cheese is up to you. It’s good to know your guests’ preferences beforehand. Although the recipe calls for garlic powder, to me, fresh, minced garlic is superior.

5. Presentation

If the occasion is a high tea, this dish can be presented in many delightful ways. Nothing is too fancy for a high tea!

Pimento cheese is so easy to prepare, you can serve it almost anytime with crackers for a light lunch. Even better, you can store it in the fridge and it can make an encore performance two or three days later.

I must extend my thanks and appreciation to Mr. Monte for his assistance in the SFH Test Kitchen and in drafting this post. He is a font of wisdom when selecting the best ingredients. He can sniff out a bad garlic clove at 30 feet. Also, he has no peers when it comes to English language spelling rules.

pimento chees

Southern Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese was one of my Mom's favorites. She would have appreciated how this versatile recipe can be used in sandwiches and as a spread for crackers. I find it is a perfect dish to serve at tea parties with my girls.
Prep Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Calories 208 kcal


  • 1 Stand mixer – We used an electric hand mixer


  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese – We use mild cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise – We recommend Hellman's
  • 1 4 ounce jar diced pimento, drained
  • 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and minced (Optional) – We use 2 peppers
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder – We use fresh, minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper – Optional
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and black pepper to taste


  • Place Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, pimento, minced jalapeño, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and onion powder in a large bowl.
  • Mix until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
    pimento cheese
Keyword Pimento Cheese, Pimiento Cheese, Southern-style pimento cheese

Jacques’ Lamb Stew

French cuisine is not a delight reserved only for restaurants adorned with Michelin stars. Oh non! It is an art that may be practiced even in the most humble farmhouse setting. And I, Pierre LeChat, gourmand and expert on all that is food, will demonstrate this in a most conclusive way. In this post I will relate to you how the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen (SFH-TK) recently tested, mastered, and perfected Jacques Pépin’s Lamb Stew.

If, perhaps, you are anxious to view the recipe now and wish to return later to read my most interesting test report, just click Jump to Recipe below.

Continue reading “Jacques’ Lamb Stew”

SFH-TK SKills – Herbs

Hi! Blondie here with a mix of garden and food talk.

In this post we will discuss how the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen (SFH-TK) is mastering herb skills. So, come join me on the back porch and let’s talk about what’s going on.

Although Mr. Monte would probably disagree, my dear Hubby is greatly underrated when it comes to practical skills and  long-range planning. – – Well, come to think of it, sometimes Monte’s low opinion concerning Fuzzy’s skills is spot-on. – – Whatever. This year, Hubby did have some good ideas relating to herbs and spices that have led to improvements for the SFH-TK.

I guess his long-range plan began to come into focus this time last year when he decided to give me a set of herb and spice bottles for Christmas. When I opened the rather large box containing the 48 little bottles, all I managed to say was, “Just what am I supposed to do with these?” He merely answered, “You’ll see.” – – And so I did in early March when Hubby installed two sets of herb and spice storage racks, one set for the kitchen and one for the pantry. (See the item Bringing Order to a Real Mess in the post Spring is Here! (Meteorologically speaking))

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The next step in his plan was to improve our ability to grow herbs by preparing an entirely new herb garden in SFH Vegetable Garden #2. (See the item Part I – The Herb Garden Gardens in the post Feast Day Garden Talk)

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Throughout the growing season, Hubby could be found gazing into his crystal ball (his computer and the Internet) looking for the best information sources needed to complete his master plan. That’s when he started collecting articles, items, and notes from places like the National Center for Home Food Preservation. From these resources he learned how to dry herbs. A big part of his master plan was to dehydrate some of our new crops of Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, and Tarragon and to become self-sufficient in these frequently used herbs. He thought this would be possible because all four herbs are perennials and we won’t have plant any new ones for some time. His newfound knowledge highlighted distinctions between the various types of herbs that would help him in selecting the best combinations of dehydrating times and temperatures. For example, he learned:

Less Tender Herbs —  Include rosemary, sage, thyme, summer savory and parsley – these are easier to dry

Tender-Leaf Herbs — Include basil, oregano, tarragon, lemon balm and the mints – these have a high moisture content and will mold if not dried quickly

When the pressure from the main growing season subsided, Hubby had the time to pursue the task of perfecting his SFH-TK herb dehydrating skills. For a period of two weeks, every day was filled with either picking, dehydrating, or storing our herbs. Although he learned that it is better to store some herbs whole, that is not ground, he did experiment with grinding herbs using a make-do mortar and pestle. Here are pictures of the process and the results. Sometime in the future, I’ll let Hubby go into more detail. – – For now, however, let’s just say Hubby actually had a plan that worked.

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Don’t Rest on Your Laurels, Hubby

Hubby was a bit overly proud of his new dehydrating skills. Consequently, Mr. Monte and I had to bring him down a peg or two. So, I took the opportunity to tell him that it was time to replace my special flashing light display on the back porch. Reluctantly, he set up the step ladder, climbed to dizzying and dangerous heights (for him) and proceeded to install the new lights. — Fortunately, there were no accidents and surprisingly the lights worked the first night.

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First Fire of the Season

First fire of the year – November 13

Now it’s getting a bit cold out here on the porch. It’s time to go back inside and warm up. I’ve asked Hubby to light a fire in our trusty old wood stove. While he’s doing that I’ll make some hot chocolate for the two of us.

Once again, it was the best harvest ever! – No, we’re not preppers; we’re not homesteaders; and we’re not farmers. We’re just a happily married couple living rural life in a practical way. – It’s all a great blessing.

SFH Gardens – By the Numbers

The extensive and highly productive vegetable gardens here at SFH have been blessed with a most abundant harvest. For now, the following links will catch you up with what has been planted, harvested, and preserved since our last report:

SFH 2022 Plantings

SFH 2022 Harvest

SFH 2022 Preserving

SFH WX Station Report – Monthly: 

SFH WX 2022-11-01 through 11-30


Windfall Okra

C’est une situation très grave. The final piece of the renovation of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen was to have taken place yesterday. But that did not happen. Non, instead, two days ago the vendor called to inform us that the new electric stove had not yet arrived at the warehouse. The delivery date is now uncertain, but certainly no sooner than this coming Wednesday. – – There was indeed a mood of great disappointment amongst the members of the highly dedicated SFH TK staff.

But I, the indomitable Pierre LeChat, was able to restore the spirits of the staff and renew their sense of mission. And I was able to do that with the help of recourse to the SFH TK secret ingredient – ‘serendipity. In this case it was the ‘serendipity of ‘Windfall Okra’. – And you might ask, just what is ‘Windfall Okra’?

Mon amis, in this case, ‘Windfall Okra’ is the unexpected ringing of the telephone with the news of a serendipitous event. And that event was that a class at the Rappahannock County High School had planted okra earlier this year and the okra was ready for harvest – ready for harvest, but no one really knew what to do with that harvest. The caller, however, knew that the SFH TK was always willing to take in any stray or unwanted harvest and turn it into a gastronomic delight. (Perhaps this blog should refer to itself as a “Homeless Harvest Rescue Site”.)

Within minutes, the homeless harvest found itself in the safety and security of the caring hands of the Test Kitchen staff. I immediately devised a plan to transform this abandoned okra into a gourmet snack – it would soon become crunchy pickled okra for snacks and dinner side dishes. (See the recipe we used below.)

It will be a week or so before we perform a taste test. We suspect that this will be a test with mixed results. Pourquoi? The poor abandoned okra pods we received were somewhat past their prime (6-7 inches). When okra pods grow beyond 3-4 inches in length, they tend to become stringy and fibrous. We anticipate that some of our crunchy, pickled okra will be well beyond crunchy. If that is the case, then we will let the neighborhood dogs use them for chewing exercise. I, for one, am quite hopeful though that ‘serendipity‘ will continue to prevail, and that at least some pickled okra will become the tasty and crunchy delight for which we hope.

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Crunchy Pickled Okra

This is a crunchy dill-style, vinegar-based pickled okra recipe. It is a refrigerator pickle to preserve a summer harvest without canning. It is based on a recipe by John Amato in The Culinary Garden.
For step-by-step instructions refer to the video


Ingredients for Mason Jar

  • 4-6 sprigs fresh dill Note #1
  • 12 oz 1 QT washed and trimmed okra
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 small hot pepper Serrano or Fresno - Note #2

Brine Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon whole coriander seed Note #3
  • 1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns Note #3
  • 1 3/4 Cups white distilled vinegar
  • 3/4 Cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pickling salt - Add same time as sugar
  • 2 dried bay leaves


Note #1 - Our homegrown dill was at a perfect stage for use.
Note #2 - All we had available was a small homegrown jalapeno. We sliced it lengthwise and removed the seeds to avoid excess heat.
Note #3 - We had no coriander seeds, so we resorted to using mrs. wages Mixed Pickling Spice 

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit

The sun rose a little over an hour ago. Here at Serendipity Farmhouse this is our time for prayer and reflection. On this great national holiday, my mind comes naturally to these words.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This year, the meaning of these words has been restored and renewed – at least in part. Here are two shining examples:

Life Prevails

Liberty Triumphs

As the sun continues to rise, there remains a quiet and peaceful calm. My beautiful Spouse has declared “holiday routine” for the entire SFH staff. For all of us, today will provide a special opportunity to enjoy that third enumerated right which the Declaration states was endowed by our Creator –

“the pursuit of Happiness”

Pierre LeChat has buried himself in a pile of cookbooks looking for new recipes for the soon-to-be-world-famous, recently renovated SFH Test Kitchen. The ever-vigilant Mr. Monte has made his morning security rounds and is taking a well-deserved nap. In a short while, Blondie and I will start preparations for today’s holiday Feast. And that feast, as it is every year on this day, will be festive, filling, and flavorful. Behold! Here is the traditional SFH 4th of July menu.

Although today will be relaxed and restful, the latter part of June and the first few days of July were filled with a multitude of chores related to completion of the SFH TK renovation. There has been organizing, cleaning, ordering a new stove, and preparing for the 2022 preserving and canning season. In fact, the harvest has already begun. So far, we have picked over two pounds of green beans, several jalapeno peppers and tomatoes, and the first pods of okra.

Because our green bean harvest is the largest ever, we have had a chance to freeze the surplus beans (three bags so far). We’ve never done that before, but it turned out to be quite simple. We used freezing advice provided at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. For green beans, we used the instructions listed here.

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The SFH TK renovation, although not complete, is already making life better here. Several years ago, we had to store away our Breville juicer and have not had the opportunity to partake of the wonderful “green juice” we used to make. The art of juicing was introduced to our daily routine by our friends Rob and Carol Hoffman. Now that we have easy access to the juicer, and because many vegetables are available to us from our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, we have once again been able to make “green juice” a morning standard.

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Neither the Declaration of Independence nor our Creator gives us a right to “Happiness”. Rather we are endowed with the right of “pursuit of Happiness”. Here at SFH, we always try to remember that distinction. Sometimes, things other than “Happiness” come our way. For example, when we came home one day last week, we found that a storm had caused some destruction to our vast SFH gardens and arboreal treasures. Compared to what happened to our neighbors’ house two weeks ago, when a large Maple tree crushed a portion of their roof, the damage we had was entirely insignificant. – –

It’s at times like this, that our “Liberty” and the right to pray when and where we want becomes so important. In other countries, that is not the case. We must remember that the rights we celebrate today were won for us by brave men who were inspired by “divine Providence” to say:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Happy 4th of July!!!


Jacques’ Lentil Salad – SFH TK Test

If you have not had the good fortune to meet me and experience my fascinating wit and charm, I am Pierre LeChat, gourmand and expert on all that is food. Recently, I have been most graciously invited by the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen (SFH TK) to host this series of posts called SFH Food Talk. (See: Gourmet KetchupJulia’s Tartlets – Pierre’s Test Case, & French Cuisine & GRITS)

This particular adventure in French cuisine was inspired by an encounter with Jacques Pepin and Julia Child in the cookbook Cooking at Home. Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face had recently received the book as gift. I myself found it to be most interesting and recommended that the SFH TK test some of the recipes therein. Of course, the wisdom of my advice was immediately recognized and this last Wednesday the entire SFH TK staff moved into action. Their testing criteria would be in accord with my personally developed – Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence:

1. Level of the challenge
2. Selection of good-quality ingredients
3. Use of cooking techniques
4. Development of superior taste and flavor
5. Presentation

To most of you, it stands to reason that something that is soon-to-be-world-famous is not already world-famous. That, of course, would imply that the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen does not possess all the financial and test equipment resources that are available to already world-famous test kitchens. Consequently, the SFH TK staff often has to make on-the-spot substitutions and adjustment to recipes when a particular resource is lacking. For example, in this test, chives were not available to be added as garnish. So, without a moment’s hesitation, Blondie made the excellent decision to go immediately to SFH Herb Garden #1 and pick a bunch of fresh parsley. – – Problem solved!

All of that said above is merely to highlight that the grand purpose of the SFH TK is to test a recipe under the same conditions and with the same challenges that confront any amateur home chef. The only difference being, the SFH TK staff is scientific and methodical, recording each step of the recipe process and analyzing the results. The end goal is to have a failproof, go-to recipe that can be listed on your weekly menu with the highest confidence. – – It works for the SFH TK and it will work for you. 

Test Results & Commentary

First, let me say Jacques Pepin has developed a marvelous salad recipe and Chef Blondie has penned on her printed copy “Excellent!”. But, let me go further. Although it is called a ‘salad’, this dish can stand alone as a meal or a main course. And so it did at Serendipity Farmhouse on two nights this past week. The point to be taken here is that this dish can survive refrigerator time and be used as tasty leftovers. – – The secret of the recipe is in the burst of flavor produced by the ensemble of ingredients, especially in the choice of shallots and herbs.

1. Level of the challenge: For a salad, this recipe presents a moderate challenge. Should you decide to presoak the lentils, that will increase your prep time. If you do not presoak, then you will have to monitor the cooking of the lentils to ensure they are fully cooked. – The choice is up to you.
2. Selection of good-quality ingredients: Quality of ingredients does make a difference in this recipe, but, even with lower quality ingredients, the flavor in this salad is superior. Jacques recommends lentilles du Puy, which have a greenish color. These were not readily available, and the SFH TK used less-preferred Walmart generic lentils. Currently, the SFH TK is awaiting the arrival of a package of lentilles du Puy for use in future testing.
3. Use of cooking techniques: The SFH TK staff encountered little difficulty in preparation of this recipe. The techniques used are simple and straightforward.
4. Development of superior taste and flavor: Here is the key to the success of this recipe. Jacques has assembled just the right ingredients to add zing to the taste and aroma of this dish. The unusual characteristic of this salad, however, is that the flavor does not diminish as you eat. The last bite is just as tasty and refreshing as the first.
5. Presentation: Be careful in presenting this dish. An SFH TK staff member, probably Ol’ Fuzz Face, selected the worst possible dish for showing off the charm of this delightful salad. Willow Pattern China tends to detract from the visual appeal. I strongly encourage Fuzzy to use a simple white plate or bowl when displaying similar dishes.

So, without further ado, here are pictures of the process keyed to the two primary instructions listed in the recipe. Enjoy!

Step 1 – Preparing the Lentils

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Step 2 – Preparing the Dressing

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Jacques' Lentil Salad

Course Salad
Cuisine French
Servings 6


To cook the lentils:

  • cups French green lentils rinsed and picked over
  • cups water
  • cups vegetable broth optional, see Note 1
  • 1 cup chopped onion about 4 ounces
  • 1 or 2 sprigs fresh thyme optional
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Pinch of ground cloves optional

For the dressing:

  • 2 Tbs white-wine vinegar plus more to taste
  • 4 Tbs virgin olive oil plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp salt plus more to taste
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
  • 1 Tbs Dijon-style mustard or to taste (optional)
  • Drops of Tabasco to taste (optional)
  • 1 large ripe tomato cored and seeded, chopped into /2-inch pieces (about 1/4 cups)
  • cup finely chopped shallots scallions, or onion
  • 2 tsp minced garlic about 3 cloves
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh chives for garnish, see Note 2


  • Put the lentils, water, chopped onion, optional thyme, bay leaf, salt, and optional cloves in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes or longer, until the lentils are cooked through but still hold their shape. (See Note 3.) Cool to lukewarm; at that point drain off any remaining liquid. Pour the lentils into a mixing bowl and discard the herbs.
  • To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper (and mustard and Tabasco, if using). Stir in the chopped tomato, shallots (or scallions or onion), and garlic. Pour the dressing over the warm lentils and fold in gently, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped chives before serving. (See Note 2.)


Note 1: Vegetable broth used instead of water to enhance flavor
Note 2: Chives were not in season, so we used our own parsley.
Note 3: We opted to presoak the lentils. Consequently, the lentils require less time for cooking, perhaps 15-20 minutes.
Recipe from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Knopf, 1999, p.128, as adapted by the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen