Thursday, September 21, 2006

So the Story Goes...

that a member of the King's court walked by a peasant eating lentils. "If you'd learn to be subordinate yourself to the King, you wouldn't need to eat lentils," he told the peasant. "If you'd learn to eat lentils," replied the peasant, "you wouldn't need to subordinate yourself to the King."

I decided that Friday is recipe day, and there's going to be a focus ingredient. Carla asked in a note if I had any good lentil recipes, as she's seen me buying them, so in honor of Carla, this first recipe post is themed to lentils.

I love lentils because they're such a leveler. They're cheap cheap cheap to buy, so they make great, super-miserly meals. They're nutritious, so us parents trying to wean ourselves from McDonald's should be getting acquainted with them. But they're also really yummy and versatile, so they've become very fabulous and show up, gingerly prepared in an emulsion of duck something, in exclusive restaurants.

I have to admit, in the last few, post-kid years, I've been a better purchaser-with-good-intentions of lentils than preparer of them. Often, I'm not a great fan of the lentil -- too many times recipes seem to bring out the inner mealy texture, which I don't consider a feature. So I either like recipes (like the first here) where the lentils are cooked past the mealy stage, or others (like the second) where they're still a bit firm and keep their shape.

Lentil-Rice Casserole harkens back to the days in my 20s when I was single and saving for a house and reading The Tightwad Gazette, where the recipe comes from:

3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup lentils
1/2 cup brown rice, uncoocked
3/4 cup chopped onion
A couple smashed and minced cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp sweet basil
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Mix this all together and throw it all into a casserole dish. Bake, covered, for about 90 minutes. You can eat it just like it is, or you can use it for pita or tortilla filling. Truthfully, eating it totally plain always feels a bit spartan to me, but I love excess, so you might like it just fine that way.

Herbed Lentils are a really nice side dish, especially with veggie burgers. I just found this recipe in a recent issue of Weight Watchers magazine that I picked up while standing in a check-out line feeling pudgy. Here's what you do:

3/4 cup lentils
4 large sprigs thyme
2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup broth
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs
1 or 2 Tbs tarragon or other soft vinegar (no balsamic -- it's too harsh)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Put the lentils in a saucepan with the thyme and enough water to cover by 1", and get those things boiling. Boil the lentils for about 20 minutes -- until they're "firm tender," as they say.

Heat the oil in a big nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic, and stir a bit for about 5 minutes -- until they're a bit soft. Drain the lentils and thyme, and add them and the broth to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring once or twice, until the broth is absorbed. This will be about 15 minutes. Throw out the thyme, and then stir in the herbs, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Meanwhile, I wanted to relay that yesterday morning before work I had a nasty bit of oral surgery done and decided to go with just novocaine -- no putting me under. Which saved us $200 since insurance doesn't consider preventing my being creeped out to be "medically necessary." I don't think Phil gave me enough snaps for my bravery, so I'm posting here what a brave, brave person I was.

Also, here's another look at the reasons I feel so emphatic that we start eating better, preserving regional tastes, supporting local businesses, and protecting the environment:


Blogger amyzeats said...

My 2 cents on the carrots: I prefer a really small dice with lentils. Too big and it feels like the dish is all about the orange fellers, which I love, but it's kind of like showing up wearing white at a wedding; you don't want to upstage the main event. Or something like that...

7:38 AM  
Blogger Cindy K said...

Good point, Amy. I've seen lentil recipes that are just lentils and frozen vegs (BIG cauliflower hunks, for example), and it looks wrong.

8:27 AM  
Blogger amyzeats said...

okay, went to my once-a-week farmer's market this morning and bought some great stuff, including a nice, pudgy butternut squash that i made soup with when i came home. also got this neat kind of kale (tuscan) that was such a great color and i'm really excited to cook. and tomatillos! gonna make turkey chili with those. of course, this all is sounding much more ambitious in print than it did when i was buying it all, so we'll see what happens. at least i got soup out of it...

2:55 PM  
Blogger Cindy K said...

Wow, the butternut squash soup sounds great, Amy. How do you make it?

9:39 AM  
Blogger amyzeats said...

i've been using the same recipe for a while. i got it from either gourmet or bon appetit, i think. i don't know if this will sound complicated or not, but it's really quick to make (45 minutes tops with prep work) and very easy. it is:

- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tsp fresh ginger (more if you really love The Movie Star)
- 2 cloves of garlic minced and mashed into a paste with about a 1/2 to 1 tsp of kosher salt, depending on how big the garlic is (if you prefer, i'm sure sea salt would be fine)
- 2 1/2 cups (more if you don't want the soup too thick) chicken or vegetable broth* or water
- olive oil

pour some olive oil (2 or 3 tbs) in a large pot and heat. saute onion 'til soft. add in squash, saute for a minute or so. add in broth and simmer 'til squash is soft, about 20 minutes. Add garlic paste and ginger and cook another 10 minutes or so. wsing one of those fantastic blending wand devices or a blender, puree soup 'til smooth.

you can add milk or cream to the soup, too, if you want. i stopped doing that. all by itself, this soup is so thick and yummy. the cream was kind of over-the-top for me (plus, you know, this is one low-fat soup).

* re broth: i've gotten into the habit of making stock and freezing it. use your leftover chicken bones, roast them and then put them in a pot o' water with whatever. it's easy and cheap and then you have homemade stock. ta-da!

6:19 AM  

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