Category: Lentils

Missed Opportunity

October 7, 2008

So, let me just put this out there. I never used to watch TV. I was probably even a little snobby about the fact that I didn’t know anything about any of the shows.

In the summer of 2003, Randy and I moved to London. Besides a few of his business school contacts, we didn’t know anybody. Our year there was one of the best of my life but it was lonely. Television was more pleasant to watch there and we quickly fell into the habit. Two of their five networks do not have commercials and one of them would run movies without the massive edits that we have in this country. Even on the channels that had commercials, there was only a break every 20 minutes, as opposed to our 8-10 mintues here.

Once we returned home, I kept up my television habit. I wish at the end of the day, after the kids are in bed, I had the energy to read, but I just don’t. I like to zone out and relax but I am a little appalled at some of the shows I have gotten into. Sure, I love Project Runway, Top Chef, The Office and those other “acceptable” ones. But I also have gotten hooked on America’s Next Top Model and, yes, The Bachelor.

For those of you who don’t know, last season’s The Bachelor was actually The Bachelorette and the guy who she almost chose lives in Seattle. His name is Jason and he seemed like a very nice guy, he has a young son, and women all over the country fell in love with him. I don’t think anyone was surprised when they tagged him to be the next Bachelor.

Here is where things get interesting. My brother Alex is a personal trainer. He owns a personal training gym in Bellevue (a suburb of Seattle) and one of his clients happened to be this guy Jason’s boss. When he said he needed to get in shape for this show, the guy sent him to Alex.

I heard all this through my mother, who wouldn’t be caught dead watching a show such as The Bachelor, but she is very amused that her daughter, the one who used to be such a TV snob, does. I immediately got stars in my eyes and called Alex offering my services as a personal chef. He was enthusiastic, saying he would like to know what Jason was eating and knew that, as a trainer, he would get better results for his client knowing that the food was healthy. I think we left it that Alex would check with him and I would think about if I really had time to cook for one more person and add a completely other part of town to my route.

And then I got really busy. I picked up a new client. I cooked for a friend. I had crazy weekends full of food. I tried through all of this to be a good mother to my boys and keep my household intact. I kept thinking that Alex would call me if Jason was interested. I guess, with good reason, I let the ball drop.

Alex brought his kids over for dinner on Sunday night and told me he had just had a weekend of filming with ABC. They were in town to document Jason’s life here and the training he was doing was a part of it. I asked him whatever happened with the chef part of things and he stunned me by saying, “You never called me back.” Suddenly, I felt like I had just missed a tremendous opportunity and spent the rest of the evening replaying our last phone conversation in my head, and berating myself for not going after something with the potential to be really big.

But now, several days later, I realize that things probably worked out better anyway. Really, how could I have increased my food production and driven and miles and miles off my normal route for a non-paying client? My business is just me in my kitchen. Scaling up requires a huge investment of my time, something I don’t have with two young kids. My brother has a gym, he has a staff. I have me in my kitchen. If I got publicity from cooking for The Bachelor, where would that leave me? Unable to take on the clients who could potentially come my way.

Interestingly, today I got a request from a friend to help out someone in need. A woman who works for him just had a very preemie baby and he wants to nourish her with my food twice a week for the next couple of months. This is where my attention should be, on cooking and sharing my food, not my theatre major pipe dreams.

I have to say, I think Jason would have enjoyed this soup, healthy and filling as it is. But the person who really needs it, and who I would be really happy to share it with, is a new mommy, scared for her baby.

Mediterranean Five-Lentil and Chard Soup with Walnut Gremolata
Adapted from
The Artful Vegan
Serves 6

With all apologies to The Millennium Restaurant (whose cookbook this is), I made some changes to the method here. They suggest you cook each type of lentil separately for which I see no reason, other than to make you crazy and do a lot of dishes. You can use fewer types, even just plain old ordinary lentils too. Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you off, it is an easy soup to make with little hands on time. The gremolata isn’t totally necessary but gives the soup a nice crunch.


1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and very finely chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp. minced parsley

2 tbsp. minced dill

1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Serve, or store refrigerated, covered, overnight.

Five-Lentil Soup

2 tsp. olive oil
1 red onion, cut into small dice

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger

2 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 tsp. caraway seeds, toasted and ground

1 tsp. dried thyme

tsp. allspice
2 bay leaves

cup dry sherry
2 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 15 oz. can chopped tomatoes

cup dried red lentils
cup dried brown lentils
cup dried green (Le Puy) lentils
cup dried black beluga lentils
cup dried yellow split peas
6 cups vegetable stock

2 cups chopped red chard

2 tbsp. light miso

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook soft. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add all the spices and saute, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the sherry, sugar, all lentils and the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Add the chard and simmer for 10 minutes, or until wilted. Place the miso in a small bowl and whisk in 1/2 – 1 cup of stock until the miso has dissolved, then add the mixture back to the soup. (This will keep the miso from clumping.) Remove the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a garnish of 1 tbsp. of the gremolata.

Top 10 Lists

June 12, 2008

A few years ago, my brother Michael informed me he was compiling a list of his top 10 songs. He was heavily in to punk rock at the time so I remember being surprised that Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” made the cut. As someone who has always loved music, I thought it was an interesting idea but how to choose? There are a bazillion songs out there and I easily tire of even those that I like. I worked in radio for a number of years and having a speaker above my desk blaring music that I couldn’t turn off (or turn down) spoiled even some of my very favorites for me.

I came up with the idea that a song that truly belonged on my top 10 would be one that, if I heard it on the radio while driving in my car, would cause me to say, “I love this song!” and turn up the volume. Maybe because of my years working in radio, I am a chronic station flipper. I feel like I am sick of almost every song that comes on – even relatively new ones. But one that I am happy to hear? That must really be a favorite.

In thinking about my favorite foods, I came up with a similar strategy. There are so many things that I love – how do I know if it’s really a top 10? Now I know – if I see it on a menu, my eye goes right to it and I order it 9 times out of 10. Or if I see it in a display case (a nice one, not at Safeway), I end up with it in my shopping cart. It’s like the world get shut out and all I can think about is this food.

My list is a work in progress but I can tell you one of the very top things on there. Lentils. I love all kinds of lentils in all kinds of preparations. Soups, stews, salads, you name it and I love them. I love the good old fashioned pedestrian brown lentil, the firmer and fancier Le Puy lentil, and I love love love red lentils. Unlike their siblings, red lentils break down when cooked and become mushy but with a lot of texture and bite to them. They have an incredible buttery and rich taste to them but they are, of course, almost fat free and incredibly healthy with loads of protein, iron, and fiber.

This week I made a Stir-Fried Rice and Dal dish to go with a Spring Curry with Sri Lankan Spices (and a Cucumber Raita and a Mango Papaya Chutney). It was so good that I could have eaten it for all my meals for the rest of the week. There were a few more steps to it than warrant an “everyday meal” for me, but it made me think of another recipe which is one of my absolute favorites. This one gets extra points for being easy, relatively quick, very nutricious and for keeping well (up to 5 days!). AND it is so tasty, you won’t believe it. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, the hands-on time is short.

Curried Red Lentil Stew with Vegetables
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Serves 4-6

Vegetable Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (2 x 1 inch) piece of ginger, grated or minced
5 large garlic cloves, minced
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
3/4 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 1/2 cups water
1 15 oz can reduced-fat coconut milk
3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise, then cut cross-wise in to 1/2 inch pieces
3 cups baby spinach (3 oz)
1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Heat a 4-5 quart heavy pot over moderate heat. Add just enough oil to lightly coat the bottom, then add the onion with a sprinkling of salt. Stir occasionally until golden, 8-10 minutes.

Add ginger and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes. Add curry, cumin, and tumeric and cook over low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in lentils and add water and coconut milk and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Add carrots and another pinch of salt and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until carrots are tender and lentils have broken down in to a coarse puree, about 15 minutes.

Stir in spinach and peas and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Add additional water if necessary (especially if you are reheating this out of the fridge) to thin the dal so it can be ladled over rice.

By the way, here is my preliminary Top 10 Foods List. (You will notice that several faves on this list are in the above recipe – no wonder I love it so much!).

Coconut milk
Wide noodles (either egg or rice – Veggie Pho can put me over the edge)

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