As the sun begins to beat winter away, all I want to do when I get home is take the dog out for an evening stroll.  The flowers in the neighborhood smell so sweet and it’s wonderful to be out of the chill of the butcher shop and into the warmth of spring.   But once I get home from my excursion, I really just want to crash out on the couch.  It’s during this time of year that I like to cook fast and simply.  I recently made pork chops with green lentils, oranges, avocado and basil from a Martha Stewart recipe that was absolutely perfect for a Spring evening.  Fast, easy, fresh and bright tasting – all the requirements for a Spring weeknight dinner.

Pork with Lentil, Orange, Avocado, and Basil Salad

from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

serves 4

2 dried bay leaves

1 cup French green lentils

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 boneless pork chops (each about 5 oz. and 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick)

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

3 navel oranges

3/4 cup roughly torn basil leaves

1 small shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)

1 Hass avocado, chilled

1. Bring 8 cups water and the bay leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add lentils and reduce heat.  Cover with a round of parchment paper and a pot cover and gently simmer until tender, 25-30 minutes.  Drain lentils.  Let cool completely (about 30 minutes spread out on a baking sheet).  (Lentils may be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated.)

2. Pat pork chops dry and season them with salt and pepper.  Bring them up to room temperature (about 20 minutes).  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook until pork is browned and just cooked through, flipping once, about 6 minutes.  (If you want some of the fat to render out and get crispy, lean the chops against the sides of the skillet to allow the fatty edges to have direct contact with the hot skillet.)  Let rest on a platter, tented with foil, about 5 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, finely great 1 teaspoon zest from 1 orange.  Cup the peel and pith from remaining 2 oranges.  Cut into 1/4″ thick pinwheels and then quarter the pinwheels, reserving juices.   If necessary squeeze the zested orange to measure 1/4 cup of orange juice total.

4.  Toss together oranges, 1/4 cup juice, the lentils, basil, shallot, 2 teaspoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add any juices from resting pork.

5.  Halve, pit, and peel avocado.  Halve each half lengthwise, then cut into 1/3-inch slices crosswise, and fold into salad.  Spoon salad, over pork, garnish with basil, and drizzle with remaining oil.