Lentils Continued…

Yes, here is the recipe for lentils I promised you a few weeks back!  Oh, Lentils.  The mighty, high-protein, highly-economic standby food!  Like all simple foods in France, they get the VIP treatment.  Lentils are always dressed up with bits of foie gras or smoked salmon.  However, considering we just bought an apartment, they rest unadorned, but nonetheless delicious.

Sadly, my husband is opposed to spice.  He will find ways to eat around herbs.  As I heard so eloquently said recently (in David Lebovitz’s blog), Americans are into fireworks when eating.  However, the French prefer something truly simple and well-made. It goes to show that my own personal style is to throw a handful of cilantro on everything.  Needless to say, the following recipe is tasty whether you choose to dress it down for dinner for two, served with some baked potatoes and grilled sausages.  Or in my case, incorporate some chopped ginger, garam masala, creme fraiche and a handful of cilantro for lunch!

Compromise be gone!

Lentils for one and all (or 8 people)

1 ½ Cup Green Lentils, soaked for several hours or overnight

2 leeks, finely chopped

3 small onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic

2 carrots, shredded

3 plum tomatoes, grated

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. olive oil

6 cups water, more if needed

1.)  In a heavy-bottomed pot, sauté the leeks and onions over medium/low heat until soft and translucent.  Add bay leaves, carrots, garlic, pepper and tomato.  Cook until softened and lightly caramelized

2.)  Add the drained lentils and cover mixture with water

3.)  Cook for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft and stewy.  Add salt

4.)  Enjoy!

1 Part Tomatoes+1 Part Red Peppers

There’s nothing like a soon-to-be mother-in-law!  Fortunately, as of now, I’ve only good things to tell.   When I moved to France, I quickly learned that Sunday was the ultimate day of relaxation.  I mean a ‘watching 3 movies, not moving the couch’ type of Sunday.  And thanks to France, I was finally able to train myself to do this without feeling a drop of guilt.  When I started seeing C, I learned Sunday was the ultimate day of family, too.  Whenever we weren’t glued to the couch or scavenging for food after noon, we were more than likely on our way to his parent’s place in the 15th arrondisement.  C’s mother is a very striking beauty.  She’s impeccably preserved with radiant, olive skin and dark tresses.  Only her slow walk gives away the fact she’s in her early 70s.  She’s a retired primary school teacher.  Thankfully, she speaks clearly and simply enough for both a 4h grader and a barely bilingual Americaine like me to understand.  And she just adores her son.  She beams when she sees him and buys him a chocolate basset hounds every Easter and is quick to pull out his childhood photos.  But I knew she finally warmed up to me when she whipped out the vegetables just for me!  And plenty of them! Carotte rappe with just a touch of olive olive, cucumbers simply dressed with vinegar, and the most beautifully sumptuous red pepper and tomato salad/confiture/thing you must try at home!

So, it’s just a kilo of tomatoes and a kilo of red peppers.  It’s that easy.  They are scorched on either an open flame or in the broiler until their skins are completely black and pull away from the flesh.  From there, wrap them in a papertowel and wrap in a plastic bag until they cooled. Remove the skins and slice into strips.  From there, place the sliced peppers and tomatoes into a skillet with some olive oil and let them slowly concentrate until they morph into their own sauce.  Add a little water here and there to keep them from sticking to the pan and to continue the caramelizing.  After about 45 minutes-1 hour, you are left with is just the silkiest and smokiest thing that has ever come out of 2 kilos of vegetables.  The sweetness of the peppers mellows out the acidity of the tomatoes brilliantly.  With the necessary addition of baguette, you’re set for a terrifically light lunch or first course.  Or reserve a little for your omelet the day after.  Or place on top of a crostini with a little goat cheese for an elegant hors d’oeurves.  But from my experience, the salad won’t last long enough to consider sharing.

From this day on, I still haven’t seen this little salad anywhere else! Unlike the Thai chicken wraps or the Mexican tortilla soup my family has adopted as our own family recipes from the supermarket periodical aisle, I can assume this recipe is one of those time-treasured Marseillaise recipes made in C’s family for at least a couple of generations.  And nothing can taste as good!  Not even a molten chocolate Martha Stewart recipe from my family recipe vault.  Enjoy.

Presque-etarian

So I am back in NYC after a two-week trip to Butterville.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that I have the ability to pick up and return to France whenever I can.  But after returning to New York from my hiatus vacation to Paris, my bod is barking for some detox.  Mind you, I strive for clean living and eating in my homeland. I have subsided off of a lentil-heavy, poverty-inspired diet over the past few months in New York.  But as soon as my feet touch the ground and are accessible to a boulangerie, there is no turning back.  But this time around, there was a bit of a change…

C, Monsieur Meat & Potatoes himself, recently picked up on the organic, pro-veg trend.  Halleluiah, I say!  I am not a vegetarian, but I strive to be.  A presque-etarian, if you will.  But there were countless dinners for C where I would shellac, layer, and roast vegetables in all their seasonal glory only to hear post-dinner about his need for meat.  The ultimate expression of his transformation was when he suggested we try out a macrobiotic restaurant, which was recommended to him by a friend.   Now I don’t know much about macrobiotics, but I do know it’s crunchy and something Gwenyth discusses in Instyle Magazine.  From the limited menu, we both ordered the veggie bowl.  It arrived as a sephia color wheel of lentils, vegetable porridge, seaweeds, and grain cakes.  Sadly, it lacked texture and all the color and life that make vegetables so exciting for me to prepare and enjoy.  C so generously spooned most of his dinner onto my plate and I knew that this dinner’s final destination would be McDonald’s.  Sure enough, we wrapped up the evening sitting side-by-side as I enviously watched him happily eating his McNuggets wishing I hadn’t filled up on millet cake.  Nevertheless, we are taking small steps towards culinary compatibility!

Previous Post

I never tasted panna cotta until about a year into Paris, in the early ‘wining and dining’ days of my courtship with C.  After a beautifully prepared Italian dinner at Swan et Vincent, a neighborhood restaurant in the Bastille quartier, he ordered panna cotta for dessert.  It came to our table humbly in a ramekin with a veil of raspberry coulis.  But its simplicity was a marvel!  It had the luxurious texture of a proper pudding, but with an absolutely pure taste of cream, milk, and vanilla bean.  Panna cotta is to pudding as gelato is to ice cream.  Panna cota and gelato showcase the flavor of their ingredients without being weighed down with eggs.  And luckily, for the humble home cook, this makes it a lot easier to make, too!

I hold no grudges against animal hooves, but the inclusion of gelatin in recipes always intimidated me a bit before making this.  But much like quinoa or fennel, it was just a matter of time and a good recipe to take away any culinary fear!  A basic mixture of cream, milk, and sugar is heated until warm enough to melt good-quality dark chocolate and the softened gelatin.  If you are more vanilla than chocolate, the chocolate can easily be replaced with a halved and seeded vanilla bean.  The mixture is poured into individual cups and chilled.   I do not know who I am quoting when I say this (too much Saveur Magazine), but the finished panna cotta should have the ‘wobble of a woman’s breast’.  And remember, respect for quality, pure ingredients will leave you with an exceptional result every time!  Enjoy!

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