Tag: Lentils

Best of the Beans–Cornbread, too, of course

Best of the Beans–Cornbread, too, of course

Listen to the peaceful piano stream from Minnesota Public Radio while you read…. (click on “Listen: Replenish your spirit.)

“Cheap Eats” has a sort of nasty ring to it, but it’s a bit on the real-edgy side, too. I get it. I’ve been without a lot of bucks at the grocery store check out; I’ve had to feed six people three times a day for a lot of years. My stove has cooked many a meal for a big bunch of folks along the way. “Cheap,” though, is tricky to a serious cook; it’s not the thing we’re looking for. “Inexpensive?” Sure. That rocks. Who doesn’t like “inexpensive?” But “cheap” smacks of poorly made or tawdry (think cheapskate) — just not terribly positive, even in today’s world. But when I look hard at it, and we’re all looking hard at things right now, we might be in a place where we need to know exactly what cheap eats are. And I know. The thing is, they’re sometimes pretty good. In fact, if you know how to cook cheap eats that taste good, you’re a mighty special person. You know how to add a thick schmear of seasoned rice at the bottom of each bowl to stretch a few cups of chili. You probably are intimately acquainted with why God made potatoes fried in bacon grease. Or perhaps you can make a big platter of crispy butter biscuits served with a deep bowl of beans and a little chopped bacon and manage to feed 10 hungry people? In other words, you’re like a lot of people’s grandmas who knew from tough times.

my grandma and great-grandma (wish I knew the dog’s name)

And, if we look at what we think of now as beautiful, sophisticated dishes from any old country you want to name, they’re often the meals country people made out of what they had to feed everyone who was coming to the table that night. Tough old pieces of meat simmered for hours with whatever was in the garden or on the shelf or ancient hens cooked to smithereens and served over noodles…maybe vegetables with little other than an onion and some herbs to make them tasty. A few eggs stirred up with a bit of cheese served with yesterday’s bread grilled up with butter and served with jam. Kettle of lentils bubbling on the back burner. The meals made out of what was grown nearby, out of what was available, or out of what some smart cookie had preserved and stored from last season. The food made without a grocery store just down the street.

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More Time (for) Eggs

More Time (for) Eggs

“What would you like for breakfast?” I asked. “I never met an egg I didn’t like,” said my very dear friend Chris Kliesen Wehrman with a gleam in her eye one morning after she had spent the night at our house.

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Summer Slow Cooker Shop, Chop, and Drop Soup: Ham + Lentil with Parmigiano-Reggiano

Summer Slow Cooker Shop, Chop, and Drop Soup: Ham + Lentil with Parmigiano-Reggiano

So many slow cooker recipes indicate a “dump and cook” method, but then taste like that’s exactly what you did. (I’m not eating any food from a recipe that includes the word “dump”!)  We all wish this simple cooking method worked in just such a way–especially during the hot summer months. In truth, many meals need a bit of pre-sautéing or browning before that long simmer or they are, to my palate, steamed to death and all the same color–the very reason some good cooks tell me they tried a slow cooker once and gave it away soon thereafter.

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More Time–French Style:  Lentil Soup with Flageolet Beans and Sausage

More Time–French Style: Lentil Soup with Flageolet Beans and Sausage

There’s no place like home!! I’m feeling a little Dorothy-ish today. Let me click my red heels together…

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Salmon on Lentil Risotto with Mushrooms and Fresh Greens

Salmon on Lentil Risotto with Mushrooms and Fresh Greens


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.”

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