Leeks and Chard and Lentils and Rice

I’ve been leaning a lot on lentils lately. I’m really trying to cut down on my intake of soy, especially non-fermented soy like tofu and soymilk (as opposed to miso and tempeh) and this has left me without a staple source of protein. Unlike beans, which I fear for their pre-soaking needs, their long cooking times, their gassy powers, lentils are quick and still packed with protein, a potential answer to “What’s for dinner?” when I didn’t have the foresight to ask the question a day ahead (which is basically every night).

So I was intrigued to come across a recipe for Risotto with Swiss Chard and French Lentils (how international!). Rice plus legumes equals happy, happy complete proteins, chock full of all the amino acids I need for a healthy vegetarian existence. In addition to trying to avoid soy and still get enough protein (while being vegetarian and trying to eat local and getting all my produce just from my box) I am also embarking on a low-key but concerted effort to get my freezer stocked with some meal options. There are nights when even my old stand-by of tofu, greens, and quinoa wouldn’t be a fast enough answer to the dinner question, so it would be great to have some options tucked away and waiting for such desperate times. Risotto is one of those dishes I’ve seen mentioned as freezing and reheating well, so I thought I would combine all my new pursuits and give this one a try.

Risotto with Lentils, Swiss Chard, and Leeks

I made the recipe exactly as written, except for my actual risotto-cooking technique, which is a quick ‘n’ dirty way from an old Sunset Magazine cookbook that we always use in my family and the risotto comes out just fine, thank you very much. I just don’t have the patience to do the whole gently-simmering-broth added one cup at a time thing. I would just never make risotto.

I made the risotto for my mom and myself the other day for lunch when she was visiting (I had already cooked both the lentils and the chard the day before, as they need to be cooked separately first). It has a bit of an odd texture, as even French lentils have a graininess to them that feels a little strange when your mouth is expecting only the creaminess of the risotto. But it has a hearty, chewy quality that my mom and I both enjoyed, and it made terrific leftovers for breakfast over the next few days. I also did manage to freeze one serving of it, so I will have to report later on how it does with reheating.

When I opened my freezer to take the above photograph, I got a small glimpse of why my freezer can be so packed but whenever I look in there for something to eat it registers as “empty.” In addition to the risotto in this shot, you can see the almond meal I use for gluten-free baking and a container of plain lentils and a bag of pesto cubes. But everything else – the butternut squash dumplings, the ribollita, the massive hunks of potato-rosemary bread – are in there as a result of their wheatiness. Whenever I give in to culinary temptation and make something that contains wheat, I eat a little bit, my body reminds me that wheat and I do not mix, and then I stuff the rest in my freezer. It was good to take a hard look at what’s in my freezer – I think there may be some frozen-food trading in my future!

Everything’s Better with Brandy

Lentil Soup with Brandy

A while ago I came across a recipe for lentil soup with bourbon, a combination which makes me feel that through the sheer power of its ingredients alone it will conjure into being a roaring fire and possibly even some kind of alpine hut to go along with it. Perfect winter soup, in other words. Tonight I wanted something warm, and relatively simple, and filling, preferably with protein. But it turned out the aforementioned recipe called for red lentils, which I’m somehow out of, and of course bourbon, which I don’t own.

Veganomicon Cookbook!

I did, however, have brown and French green lentils, a big bottle of brandy I use for cooking, and a shiny new copy of the amazing Veganomicon, a perfect Chanukah present from my mom for both Duck (vegan) and me (cookbook-obsessed vegetarian girlfriend of vegan).

I decided to make Veganomicon‘s yummy-sounding French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme. At the end I added my own finishing touch – fresh spinach and a generous splash (well, more of a pour, really) of brandy. And I can now state quite confidently that, when it comes to lentil soup, at least, everything’s better with brandy.

Recipe can be found beyond the “more” below. Continue reading

The root of things

I love roasted root vegetables. I have ever since I lived with my sister/best-friend in Providence and she would fortify us with enormous batches of that earthy, savory, caramelized winter delight. The kitchen chemistry behind roasting eludes me, however, and thus every batch I make is an experiment in faith.

Tonight I cut up most of the remainder of the past weeks’ boxes: roasting turnips, Nantes carrots, Rome Beauty apples, and some beets and garlic cloves that were not of box origin. I tossed them all with olive oil, salt, pepper, and an incredibly luxurious mountain of fresh rosemary and thyme from my last box. I lined a dish with parchment (this new-to-me miracle discovery for roasted roots turns cleaning up from a carpal-tunnel-inducing chore to just barely more than a rinse) and heated the oven to 425.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Apples and Thyme and Rosemary

I put the little fellows into the oven and checked in on them about 45 minutes later. And yes, of course, being small pieces of vegetable matter who had just spent a very long time in a very hot oven, they were cooked. Tender on my fork, and all that. But they weren’t delicious.

But they’re cooked! Take them out!, my suspicious brain cried, perhaps still mourning over the blackened husks of the Week 6 tomatillos I forgetfully abandoned in the oven for a good 3 hours. Have faith! These are merely steamed!, rejoined my stomach, remembering the almost crispy, sugary texture and flavor of those Providence roots.

So back in they went, for another 45 minutes at least – I lose track after a while and the time elapsed is at last labeled simply “a very long time in which I nervously check the oven every ten minutes lest everything burn and be horribly ruined.” In the end I simply took them out – I had lost all perspective. Were they roasted? Were they ruined?

Finally I put a forkful in my mouth. That bite had a piece of apple in it, and the apple was like sin. Like a caramel apple that’s been grilled and seared and melted and oiled and herbed until it has transcended apple, fallen from apple, into some place extraordinary. And from there, from extraordinary, into my waiting mouth.