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.
Inspired by a recent tip for a spinach soup, I decided to spend a gray Sunday afternoon over the stove creating soup (instead of buried in textbooks studying, oops). This is truly an “ad hoc” recipe in that I just threw together some foodstuffs I had in my cabinets, sweet potatoes being the base, and waited in anticipation for a, hopefully, delicious soup.
I lucked out, it tasted great! The taste is complex — not just puréed sweet potato with cream, like so many of the recipes I found online. The roasted mashed sweet potatoes, fennel fronds, cinnamon and nutmeg, red pepper flakes. Wow. I’m looking forward to eating this all week.
Roasted Sweet Potato Soup
• 2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
• 1/2 T cinnamon
• 3 T canola oil (or your favorite oil)
• 1/2 t each of salt and pepper, plus additional for seasoning
• 1/2 onion, diced
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 1/2 T fennel fronds, finely minced
• 1/2 t ground nutmeg
• 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
• 3/4 cup milk
• 1/2 T dill
• 1/2 t red pepper flakes (or, as hot as you like)
** optional toppings: blue cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions, bacon…
– Preheat oven to 400°F.
– On a baking sheet, toss cubed sweet potatoes with 2 T oil, cinnamon, 1/2 t of both salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft enough to mash with a fork. When baking time is done, put potato cubes in a medium-sized bowl with about 1/2 cup of milk and mash roughly with a fork. Set aside. (The potatoes don’t have to be a puréed consistency – I like some big chunks for good texture.)
– Heat a big soup pot over low heat. Add remaining 1 T oil. Sauté onion in oil with a sprinkle of salt and pepper for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
-Add fennel and nutmeg and cook for about 1 minute (just to develop their flavors).
– Stir chicken broth and potato mix to the pot. Add the remaining milk, dill, and red pepper flakes. Simmer on medium-low until bubbling, maybe 15 more minutes. Make sure to taste for salt seasoning! (I found I needed to add a lot more to mine.)
I topped mine with some crumbles of blue cheese — yummmm.