This weekend was full of good friends, glorious sun, and decadent meals. Highlights included a wonderful belated birthday dinner for Louis at Monument Lane (get the smoked potatoes!); a glorious birthday brunch for Sari at Maison Premiere (oysters, custom cocktails, and a delightfully flirtatious server); and Oriana’s amazing book launch party (featuring aerialists and a rousing performance by Hungry March Band–all in a very cool warehouse space/arts community mere feet from the Gowanus Canal). I ended the weekend with a lovely indoor cookout (alas, the sun did not hold) at Sean and Christie’s. I offered up potato salad in a bid to clear the crisper in preparation for the kickoff of CSA season tomorrow.
The fun came to a screeching halt on this cold, and dark, and dreary Monday morning. I managed to get through the workday with the help of my lovely coworkers. But I did not manage to warm up. By the time I arrived home, I was craving something hot and nourishing. Good thing I stopped off at the farmers’ market Saturday morning.
Beluga Lentils with Lamb’s Quarters, Caramelized Red Onion & Feta
- 1 cup beluga lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 bunch lamb’s quarters, large stems removed and roughly chopped (baby spinach would also work)
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1/2 lemon, juice and zest
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- salt and pepper
- Add lentils, two cups of water, the bay leaf, the red pepper flakes and a healthy pinch of salt to a small pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
- Bring the olive oil up to medium-low heat in a small skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized.
- When the lentils are tender (about 25 minutes), turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf. Add the lamb’s quarters in batches, allowing the heat to wilt the greens. Stir in the caramelized onions, vinegar and lemon zest and juice and season to taste with pepper and additional salt. Sprinkle with feta before serving.
This plus a glass of Red Hook Winery‘s lusty 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and I was finally, mercifully warm.
Temperatures in New York City soared above 70 today, inducing a collective giddiness. Unfortunately, save for a quick dash outside to pick up lunch and some specialty lightbulbs (good lighting being a bit of an obsession for me), I spent the day at my desk. It is the end of a very long week. By the time 6:00 rolled around, it was all I could do to swing by the health food store for some red lentils and cilantro before heading home. I was craving something spicy that would make use of the kale I picked up last weekend at the Union Square Greenmarket. (It’s tough to use up your vegetables when you get home after 10:00 each night.)
Masoor Dal with Kale
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 knob ginger (about the size of the last joint of your thumb)
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon ghee (substitute coconut oil if you’re going for a vegan dish)
- 1/2 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon whole coriander, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
- zest of 1 small lime
- 2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro
- Add your lentils, ginger, turmeric and four cups of water to a medium-sized heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer and place lid on top, leaving open a crack. If you suddenly realize that you need beer, now is the time. Your lentils need to simmer for an hour-plus, so walk those extra five blocks to the good place–and feel free to sample. A growler of Great South Bay Brewery‘s Misfit Toy Black IPA? Don’t mind if I do.
- When you get home (about 30 minutes later), give the lentils a stir. (They will have turned to mush; do not be alarmed). By the time you put on some music and pour yourself a beer, it should be time to start the rice. Basmati would be ideal, but I went with Thai Jasmine because that’s what I had on hand. You can follow the instructions on the package, but I’d recommend sautéing the rice in half a tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil for a couple of minutes before adding your water. A good pinch of salt is also key.
- Bring a tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil up to medium heat in a small skillet. Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook stirring continuously until the spices are nice and toasty but not burnt (2-3 minutes). Add the onions and the garlic and cook stirring frequently until your onions are crisp and brown at the edges.
- Add the onion and spice mixture to your lentils along with the kale and a couple of healthy pinches of salt and cook for 10 minutes or more, depending on how toothsome your greens are. Taste and adjust your seasoning with additional salt and/or cayenne as needed. Add the lime zest and cilantro off the heat.
- Damn, that was easy. But wait, you ask, wouldn’t it be a good idea to remove the giant hunk of ginger before you bite into it? Yes, yes it would.
This dish is best consumed with a second beer, in your underwear, trusty cat by your side, while watching 8 Mile (which you’ve been meaning to see for years).
I’m coming off of back-to-back 60-hour workweeks. In the middle of it all, I threw my back out necessitating a trip to urgent care and a cocktail of controlled substances that I’ve had to meter our carefully so as to remain functional for Tuesday’s fundraising gala and its aftermath.
By Saturday I was off duty and officially on Spring Break. I celebrated by purchasing a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon for my train ride down to Baltimore. That plus some Percocet and a little Zeppelin momentarily had me pain-free for the first time in over a week.
The plan was (and, I think, still is) a road trip down to Nahunta, Georgia to pick up a grill (well, technically a smoker cooker) that the good folk at Lang BBQ Smokers are building to spec for my friend Don. Between my back problems, a death in Don’s family, and a freak mid-March snowstorm over the mid-Atlantic, we’re getting a slow start.
Don flew home from Wisconsin last night via Atlanta (which, incidentally, put him within a four-hour drive of his new grill). His father-in-law had passed away in the wee hours of the morning and he’d had an arduous daylong journey, so I had resolved to cook him a nice meal. My instructions were to make something low in cholesterol and high in fiber, as Don had to swing by the lab for some blood work before we left town.
Rooting through the pantry, I found some black lentils and long-grain pecan rice. The hanging basket under the stairs held an onion and a large sweet potato. In the back of the fridge were parsley and a knob of fresh ginger. This plus an ample spice cabinet would make for a warm, flavorful meal and provide us both with enough fiber to kick off five days of barbeque for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Curried Black Lentils and Sweet Potato
- 1 cup black lentils
- 4 cups water and/or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral cooking oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
- 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 African bird chilis (or cayenne paper to taste)
- 1 whole black cardamom pod (optional)
- 1 teaspoon asafetida (optional, but recommended if you are making the vegan version, as it will lend the dish a richness)
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley and/or cilantro
- salt and pepper
- Bring the lentils and water/stock to boil in a medium pot, reduce heat, and let simmer for 25 minutes or until tender but still toothsome, seasoning with salt as needed. If you’re making rice to accompany the dish, now is a good time to start that process.
- Strain the lentils, reserving the cooking liquid. Add oil to your pot and bring up to medium heat. Add the onions and stir frequently until softened and starting to brown. Add ginger and stir constantly for one minute. Add all of the spices, stirring constantly for another minute. Add the reserved cooking liquid and the sweet potato. Simmer until potato has softened, adding water if the mixture gets too thick.
- Pour the lentils back into the pan along with the vinegar and a good dose of freshly ground pepper. Let simmer for a few more minutes, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Add fresh herbs off the heat.
This recipe makes about four servings. I reheated the leftovers for breakfast. Don had his with rice. I simmered an egg in mine. Imagine this should get us through the first few hours of our snowy spring break road trip.
I spent Thanksgiving with my family in South Florida. My 92-year-old grandparents finally relocated this past spring to be near my mom. It was a treat to spend the holiday with them after more than 25 years. While there were only six of us for Thanksgiving dinner, I ended up making a total of 11 dishes in order to satisfy various constituencies–including the aforementioned nonagenarians and a 16-year old vegan. And that doesn’t include dessert!
Here’s my 92-year-old grandma keeping guard over her wing while the bird rests. I was particularly gratified that she liked the butternut squash and creamed kale gratin, which was a divergence from her usual fare.
I got home to Brooklyn late last night. While I wasn’t thrilled to return to winter, I welcomed the opportunity to cater to my own tastes in my own kitchen. Best of all, I was able to cobble together the ingredients for this comforting dish without having to put on pants.
- Render 2 ounces of bacon in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. (I highly recommend keeping some slab bacon in the freezer for such purposes.)
- Add some chopped onion. (I went with half of a large red onion that had been lingering in the fridge since before I left town.) Cook until onion is wilted and just starting to brown. (If your bacon is lean like mine and the bottom of the pan starts to get dark, add a half tablespoon of olive oil.)
- Add three small chopped carrots and saute until just beginning to soften. Then add four cups of water, a few cubes of frozen chicken stock (or some bouillon), and that last bit of red wine left over from your dinner party last weekend. Bring to a simmer and then add half a pound of French green lentils, a pinch of red pepper flakes and half a tablespoon of Herbes de Provence.
- Simmer until the lentils are soft and the broth has thickened a bit–roughly 45 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add three small carrots chopped into very small cubes and cook for a few more minutes. Stir in a tablespoon or so of red wine vinegar to provide a little balance.
This makes a great bed for just about any protein. I cooked the first half of these lentils for a dinner party a few months ago and served them with pan-roasted Scottish salmon to great effect. Tonight I went with a fried egg. The rich, oozy yolk was a perfect marriage with the earthy lentils.
I’ve been laying low since getting home from the beach, resting up in preparation for my return to work and–after a 16-year hiatus–my return to school. I’m starting the Master’s Program in Food Studies at New York University tomorrow. My weekend goals included finishing the baby blanket for my nephew (just need to weave in the loose ends), the juicy novel I started at the beach (33 pages to go), and season 3 of Mad Men (done).
Ordinarily, my little corner of Brooklyn is a pretty quiet place. But each Labor Day millions (yes, millions) of people descend on my neighborhood for the West Indian Day Parade. The bump bump of giant speakers loaded onto flatbed trucks and the aroma of jerk chicken cooking on steel drum grills waft through the air on what I’ve come to view as the last day of summer.
But a week and a half of vacation eating have left me craving vegetarian fare and the cupboard is pretty bare. Rooting through the fridge, I found some celery, garlic and red onions left over from my CSA share. On the counter were dried French lentils that I’d bought on a whim just before leaving town, some unnamed Caribbean hot peppers my stepmom had picked up at Spence’s Bazaar (a must if you find yourself in or around Dover, Delaware) and dried porcini mushrooms that I’d bought at Byler’s (a country variety store in Dover that’s also worth a visit).
Clearly, a West Indian-Provencal mashup was in order…
Rice and Peas de Provence
- 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
- vegetable stock (I’ve taken to keeping a jar of Better Than Bouillon on hand)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp herbes de provence (or an equivalent amount of thyme, rosemary, savory, fennel and/or basil)
- 2 whole allspice berries, crushed into a fine powder
- 1 cup red wine
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 Scotch bonnet or other hot pepper, cut in half and seeded
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 cup French lentils (the small ones)
- 1 1/2 cups long-grained rice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (you could use canola or vegetable oil to make this a vegan dish)
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 lemon
- salt and pepper
- Scotch bonnet or other Caribbean hot sauce
- Bring 4 cups of vegetable stock or 4 cups of water with bouillon to a boil in a medium-sized heavy pot and add dried mushrooms, breaking up any large pieces. After five minutes, add the bay leaf, spices, wine, garlic, pepper and celery and let boil for an additional five minutes.
- Add lentils, lowering heat to a simmer. After five minutes, add rice. Let simmer for 25-35 minutes, stirring gently and adding small amounts of water as needed, until lentils and rice are just tender. Turn heat off and top with a tight-fitting lid.
- Melt butter over medium-low heat in a small pot and then add onion. Cook until onions are very soft, stirring frequently.
- Remove bay leaf. Add cooked onions, lemon juice salt and pepper to taste. If the dish is spicy enough for you, remove and discard the pepper. Alternately, you can mince it up and add it back to the pot, which is what I did.
I’m meeting a neighbor at 7:00 for a little rooftop dining. I plan to serve this with some Scotch bonnet pepper sauce that I picked up in the Bahamas and a Vinho Verde that I have on hand, although I suspect that some ice-cold beer would also do the trick.