Lentils

red and green lentils

Here’s a true story: my mother refused to eat legumes of any kind. She grew up on a farm during the Depression, daughter of a preacher in rural west Tennessee. They ate beans and drank milk and wouldn’t have dared eat a laying hen or allow any of the chicks to hatch.

When I came home from college, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest in hand, and told my mother I was making lentils for dinner, she turned up her nose and said she’d be having something else. I never did persuade her otherwise. That my mother loved eggs (and chicken) but despised milk and every kind of legume is just funny to me, still.

My children, conveniently, love lentils. Since they cook quickly compared to other types of legumes, are great for a weeknight dinner. Even better, they are very versatile.There isn’t a season or type of weather that isn’t right for lentils.

Chilly outside? Lentil soup or stew to the rescue.

Sunny and in the mid-60s? A composed salad makes for a lovely evening meal.

Racing home to make dinner in less than 30 minutes? Use canned lentil soup as a base, adding fresh spinach and topping with crème fraîche (or, if it’s what you’ve got on hand, sour cream).

Confused about different types of lentils? Link at the end of the recipes should help.


Food Ideas

Love to Cook: Try French Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts (David Lebovitz via The Splendid Table) or perhaps Lentil, Cabbage & Bacon Salad (Gourmandistan, adapted from Jacques Pépin)

Weeknight Reality: Quick Red Lentils & Spinach in Tikka Masala Sauce (NOTE: ignore the cooking time printed on the recipe; it reads 1 hr. 20 min., but actual cooking time is under 30 minutes, using prepared Tikka Masala sauce, whether it’s Saffron Road brand or something else) or perhaps Red Lentil Soup with Spicy Crème fraîche (Eating from the Ground Up)

Need a Miracle: Canned lentil soup with added fresh spinach and crème fraîche


Additional Info: Comprehensive Guide to Lentils – Oh My Veggies


Parting Thought

The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, ‘If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.’ Said Diogenes, ‘ Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.’

Anthony de Mello, via goodreads

 

Paris

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“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Let’s say you’re in a rut, and life feels a bit hum-drum or even a tiny bit sad. Perk yourself up by thinking: Paris.

Food can transport you there, at least in your mind. You can do it the complex way, making boeuf bourguignon, moules frites, or duck confit. Or you can do it the simple way with an omelette or brioche French toast. In any event, just thinking of Paris as your dinner theme will be cheerful. Then dress yourself up, even if you aren’t having company, pour a glass of Champagne, and feel transported. Food can do that; it really can.

I love to cook: With apologies to Julia Child, it’s hard to beat Ina Garten’s Beef Bourguignon. It works every single time and always feels like a treat. No beef for you? Well, how about moules frites, if you can find good mussels. Not an option either? Poached salmon fit for the French royal court to the rescue. And you must have dessert; lemon mousse will do nicely.

Weeknight reality: You can make a cheese soufflé; I promise you can. It’s much easier than you think. It won’t be ready in 30 minutes, sure. But you’ll have time to visit, or help with homework, or just sit and have a cocktail, while the soufflé is in the oven. Not convinced? Then how about Brioche French Toast with Asparagus and Orange Beurre Blanc. Yes, it’s a brunch recipe. That doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious for dinner. For dessert, some bitter chocolate and strawberries.

Need a miracle: So, it’s hard to pull off something that feels and looks and tastes all ooh-la-la in just 30 minutes. If that’s the pinch you’re in, and you really want to transport yourself (and maybe your guest, or guests), then take yourself a hop-skip-and-jump from Paris to Lyon, and make Frisée-Lardon Salad. If you’re really pressed for time, then you’re going to have to make some substitutions, but the basic idea can hold true: frisée; egg; onion; pork (if you eat it). Buy good wine and some lovely macarons, and you’re good to go.

Sweet

Pistache

Pan-fried Turkey Cutlets with Spinach & Blue Cheese Salad | Macarons

Here’s the idea, a frequent flier at our house: green salad, topped with lean protein, followed by dessert. For this one, try a standard spinach/blue cheese combo for the salad and top with turkey tenderloins that have been pan-fried in a bit of butter or olive oil, with seasoning to taste. You’ll have plenty of time left over to try your hand at making macarons, should you choose. They’re much easier than you think, although piping them into perfectly shaped rounds takes a bit of practice. Or you could just buy some from your local bakery and enjoy having some free time.

Love to Cook: Here’s Martha Stewart’s version of turkey cutlets, if you need directions. David Lebovitz has great instructions (and recipe) for chocolate macarons, and he also has suggestions for other sites to visit for more tips.

Weeknight Reality: Make the salad, etc., using the best ingredients you can find, and then purchase the macarons. There really isn’t another mid-level option here, since there’s no shortcut in the macaron process.

Need a Miracle: Use deli turkey instead of preparing tenderloins; bagged spinach, blue cheese crumbles, prepared dressing and bakery macarons finish your list.