A stocked pantry is something like a gold mine when you’re hungry and you have no idea what’s for lunch. A peek into one big drawer of mine includes several kinds of dried beans, at least 5 kinds of rice, bulgar, barley, polenta, oats, couscous, farro, quinoa, a variety of dried fruits, and usually a couple of kinds of lentils. (A big bank account makes a lot of people feel secure, but I’m rich when my cabinets are full.) When I have no idea what’s to eat, lentils are my go-to. They’re easy, fast, filling, healthy as can be (see below), pair with nearly anything and in many a direction, and they’re even pretty darned inexpensive.Continue reading
|Originally published three years ago, April 2, 2014 on my dinnerplace.blogspot.com site.|
Once, while visiting my sister, I said, “How about some lentil soup?” (I knew I was cooking dinner.) She shuddered and made as if to retch, all the while saying, “I love lentil soup, but…” Turns out that years ago, when she was still cooking for her family, a very large and delicious kettle of the soup went uneaten by anyone except by her. Days went by, the soup remained, she kept eating until….well, you might get the picture. Continue reading
Despite the fact that I’m a vegetable-crazy person, I often forget to put up a post for Meatless Mondays. I nearly always eat vegetables with eggs or, more often with egg whites, (the dogs get the yolks) for breakfast…
Above: Sauté spinach a minute or two in a teaspoon or two olive oil in a small, nonstick skillet with a little red onion or shallot, crack egg whites only (2-3) evenly on top, season with salt and pepper, and cover, cooking until whites are opaque. Garnish with salsa.
…but rarely write a recipe or post as the meals seem so simple–like the egg white and spinach omelet above.
Here are a few I have written and posted:
Sometimes it’s all in the name. Too long and no one looks further as it might take too much time. As in Steak Arrabbiata on Leek-Smothered Greens with Garlic-Kissed Wild Mushrooms. Too simple and we pass it by; we already know how to do that. As in Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes. Too esoteric and it’s a loser because who wants to make one more trip to a specialty store or spend time mastering an expensive or time-consuming, seldom-needed technique. As in Sous Vide Pheasant with Sautéed Leek Rye Rolls and Steam-Fried Homegrown Micro Greens.
(above: making the lentil risotto)
But Salmon on Lentil Risotto with Mushrooms and Fresh Greens (served with a perfect Cristom Oregon Pinot Noir–see below) just couldn’t be anything else. I’ve made it twice in the past two days and the only thing I could change is the risotto bit. We could possibly just say lentils, but you’d be thinking about boiling a bunch of lentils in a big pot of liquid and that just isn’t the way it is, so the name stands. You’ll just need to try it to see what you think of this whole meal in a bowl. Oftentimes folks choose a wine to go with a dish or a meal. In this case, I chose the wine first — I knew I wanted to bring an Oregon Pinot to this party — and custom-created a dish to go with it. This is a fun process for me and it’s one I often follow in restaurants. I check out the wine list first, choose my wine, and then look and see what dish will compliment it.
(below: our wine group tasting with Steve Doerner, Winemaker–second from right with beard and in brimmed hat– at Cristom, a favorite Oregon winery, in 2010)
This dish, used as first course for 15– here offered as a hearty main course for 8–was created to be taken to an Open the Bottle party hosted by dear friends, Drew and Jill Robinson (Drew did the wine pairings for my book).
(below: a WSJ quote about OTBN a couple of years ago)
“Memories – making them and reveling in them – is what Open the Bottle Night (OTBN) is all about. OTBN is just around the corner: Saturday, Feb. 26. We created OTBN in 1999 for a simple reason: All of us have that one bottle of wine that is so special to us that we plan to open it on an important occasion, but never do. On OTBN, as a world-wide community, we prepare a special meal, finally open that bottle, and celebrate the memories.”
Split pea is an old love, but I never make it the same way twice. What’s cool about this version is a. the lick of lemon up against the spicy notes and b. texture layers– i.e. crunchy, seedy tortilla chips and smooth sour cream on top of the soup, which is about halfway pureed.
Legume soups are healthy and inexpensive, but I’m mostly drawn to them because they’re tasty, homey, and filling. I adore the look, smell, and feel of a big pot of bean soup bubbling away on the stove nearly anytime. Split pea is about the quickest in the group, though lentils are right up there.
About an hour, especially if you use the food processor for chopping, you’ve got super soup. I’ve made them while camping, using a Coleman stove. They’re so simple and accepting of different ingredients that as long as you have the dried beans in the pantry and a few staples like onions, carrots, and celery, you’ve got soup. Add-ins might be zucchini, jalapeno, or leftover asparagus; toppings might be minced cucumber or grated Parmesan or oyster crackers. A bit of crunchy bacon on top could replace ham hocks or chopped ham in the soup. No meat at all, made with vegetable stock, and it’s great for a vegan meal. Versatile is the word for these soups. Make a big pot, freeze individual portions (Tupperware makes freezer-microwave safe containers), and you have lunch.
The day I made this, I called a friend at 10 and said, “Come for lunch at 12.” I started the soup at 11 and, well, it was a good thing she was a little late. I was still pureeing at 12:10, but that might have been because I was doing ten other things in the middle… Honest, it’s pretty quick for soup. I think Dave ate nearly three bowls and the friend two. While not in the habit of wine at lunch except while on vacation or for tasting, we did each have a half-glass of California Chardonnay with this and thought it a fine sip. I think, with the heat in this soup (and I like several sorts of heat at once), an off-dry Oregon or German Riesling would be a good match as well. Try this:
lemon split pea soup with peppered sour cream
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 small red potatoes chopped (with peel)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 cups dried split peas
- 1 cup chopped ham
- 1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme, marjoram, crushed red pepper
- 1 quart each vegetable and chicken stock
- 2 cups water or 1 cup water and 1 cup white wine
- 4-6 drops hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (added near end)
Toppings: 1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt mixed with freshly ground black pepper
Tortilla chips with seeds
In an 8-qt stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and add celery, onion, carrots, and potatoes. Sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, five minutes or so. Add everything else except the lemon juice, including a teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir and raise heat to high. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer. Cook until peas and vegetables are tender, about an hour. Add lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings. Puree using an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor. If you’d like a chunkier soup, leave it as is or crush briefly with a potato masher. Serve hot with seeded tortilla chips and a dollop of peppered sour cream for toppings.
Sing a new song,