Ina’s lentils

Wow. It’s been so long since I’ve posted here that WordPress had stopped auto-saving my username and password. That’s gotta change.

I’ll cut right to the chase — it’s cold here. 8-10 inches of snow cold. From an anti-winter person’s perspective, this is not ideal. So, what do you do when the wind practically numbs your nose off the minute you step across the threshold of your front door? When you literally have to psych yourself up to leave the safe confines of your apartment to face the blistering outdoors? (Too much?) You make the time you have indoors as toasty and make-you-forget-about-what’s-right-outside-your-window as possible.

This brought me to lentils. And really, these are pretty remarkable.

As many of you may already be aware, like many people out there, I consider Ina Garten’s cookbooks to be pleasure reading. The pages are smudged and folded as if they have been splattered with various soups and stocks while cooking away in the kitchen. More likely, however, is that they are smudged and folded from me reading and flipping through them as much as I do. “So,” you’re asking yourself, “why all the flipping and reading and lack of cooking?”

If you’re familiar with the premise of Ina’s show you know that her concept is based on stress-free entertaining, i.e. when she cooks things, she is cooking for a party, many people, or both. Well, I’m looking around my apartment and I’m seeing one person. And she can’t eat an entire rack of lamb, Ina. Sorry.

So, her recipes don’t always translate well in terms of cooking on a smaller scale. However, if you take a little time and use a bit of savvy, you can make it work. Maybe you need to cut down the recipe, maybe you can freeze part of the dish, or maybe you can find something you don’t mind eating over and over again. That’s what I did with these lentils, from her latest book How Easy Is That? I eat them all week — at first simply steaming in a bowl, then cold the next day, then a big scoop on top of a bed of greens (think chicken or egg salad on top of a green salad). Three easy steps and everything’s ready.

Without further adieu, a slightly modified version of Ina’s French Lentils. I hope they bring you as much warmth as they have for me. Or maybe you don’t have to wear at least three layers of clothing before simply heading out to the trash dumpster 20 feet away and don’t need the extra warmth. Either way, eat these.



Barefoot Contessa’s Warm French Lentils

• 2 T + 1/4 c olive oil

• 1 leek, white and green parts, sliced thin

• 2 carrots, diced

• 1 T garlic, minced

• 1 c lentils

• 1 whole onion, peeled

• 1/2 t ground cloves

• 4 t Dijon mustard

• 2 T red wine vinegar

• 2 t salt

• 1 t pepper

– Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium pan and add the leek and carrots. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then add garlic. Cook one more minute, set aside.

– Meanwhile, place lentils, 4 cups of water, the onion, and ground cloves in a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add leek mixture, and simmer uncovered for ~20 minutes (until the lentils are almost tender). Remove and discard the onion and drain the lentils.

– While the lentils are cooking, make the “dressing” — whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, the mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir into the cooked lentil mix and serve.




1. Find new job in Madison, must be food-related.

2. Search for new apartment at impossible time of the year, i.e. when no one is renting.

3. Find new tenant to re-lease current apartment.

4. Prepare for impending doom, or rather, Wisconsin winter.

5. Keep sanity.

Time lapsed: 3 weeks. Accomplished.

Yes, it’s a lot. At times I can feel the weight of all the change, other times I kind of float though it, numbed. I know this is what I should be doing no matter the stress level. It’s an “unconventional route,” whatever that means, but what’s right is right.

“I am thankful to all those who said no to me. It’s because of them that I did it myself.”                           – Albert Einstein

Instead of sitting at a desk under artificial light working on health software I now work in a cheese shop. It’s called Fromagination and it’s a complete 180° from where I was. (Also, my official job title is “cheesemonger.” How great is that!) All day I learn about farmers from WI and the products they make. I get to hear their stories, meet their family members, and taste the foods they put so much care, so much thought, into. I know this may sound “food-nerdy” of me, but it’s amazing how much better a food can taste when you have someone there, standing next to you, sharing with you that particular food’s story. Just as the home cook hopes his or her family will find joy in the meal set at the dinner tab, I can see the anticipation and hopeful approval in the eyes of these farmers when we showcase and sample their wares in our shop. I can also see their pride when a customer takes a bite and closes their eyes with gastronomical approval.

Or maybe that was me, over-enjoying almost everything I eat. Either way.

And so, I sit at my kitchen table (well, my only table) with my view out at the Madison capitol building for one of the last times before I move… in two days… with nothing yet packed. Moving an entire apartment across town in two days can’t be that hard, right? It really is only a short distance, about 1.2 miles away, so it should be no sweat. I’ll keep telling myself that.

On another note, another thing I’ll keep telling myself is that “winter won’t be so bad,” up here in a place that experienced a windy snow day in the beginning of November, that has to shut down its airport mid-April because of snow and ice, and that is filled with people who don’t bat an eye at days where it’s 20°… BELOW. That’s a lot of nay-saying, I know. I think it’s me being prematurely crotchety. I’ll just have to transform myself into one of those people who don’t mind not feeling their faces when they leave the warm confines of their apartment.

In other news: cooking! The last big outdoor farmers market was this past weekend and I tried to soak up the (surprisingly large) bounty while I still could. I really have fallen in love with roasting — I challenge anyone to use a different cooking technique that changes almost anything you choose into its most delicious form (deep-frying doesn’t count) — and this week it was all about brussels sprouts.

Like many people I know, I thought the only form of brussels sprouts were green spheres of slime that grown-ups somehow managed to choke down. Not anymore! Roasting keeps a slight bite in the center while crisping up the papery edges of the outer leaves. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them while their still hot? All set.

Why are they called brusselS sprouts, anyway? Always plural? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have a connection with Belgium. Talk to you soon, post-move!


P.S. Just found a picture on Google and loved it — if you ever fly to Madison you can have this view of the isthmus from your window!


Roasted Brussels Sprouts

• 1 lb. brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and outer (possibly browned) leaves removed

• 2 T olive oil

• big pinch of salt

• smaller pinch of pepper

– Preheat oven to 400°F.

– Simple: after prepping all of your brussels sprouts, put the sprouts on a foil-lined baking sheet. Pour oil and spices over the sprouts and toss. Arrange in single layer.

– Roast for 35-40 minutes, tossing a couple times to roll them around evenly. When finished, outer leaves should be slightly browned and crispy.

** Optional: squeeze on some lemon juice just before serving