Wednesday, May 7, 2014

French lentil salad and several lifetimes away

I have a feeling that I can only compare to running into someone I really liked once. Something akin to "I'm sorry I never wrote back, you know. You look good. Really good."

Except, I guess I knew you'd be here. It's not exactly an accident. I just needed to be in this place again, almost two years later. I'm not going to promise to keep up this time. I don't know how to fill in all of the space between us and I wouldn't know where to begin anyway. No one's ever accused me of being succinct or a particularly good summarizer. 

The campaign ended. That year was heartbreaking and fulfilling in ways I should have expected but didn't. It was hard to justify an appetite for something light after something heavy. You don't need my explanations, I don't know why I'm bothering. I want you to know that I still think about this a lot. That even if the way I work is mostly relegated to shorter bursts in other places, it started here. And I just missed it today. 

I'm about a month from 31. Peony season and all that. I bought a place. I finished up the kitchen last week and it's gorgeous. There's a whole wall of books and records. You'd love it. Of course I have some pictures. My life in politics was short-lived and I'm back at an agency. I'm not saving the world every day but I travel a lot and I work with a few like minds. 

It also gives me flexibility, which is good because my mom has cancer. That's been the last seven months. It's tough stuff but we're close and I feel like I've gotten a chance to be the daughter I always wanted to be. As though my place in our family never really crystallized until shit hit the fan. She's been a wonder to watch and her last chemo session is scheduled for the aforementioned 31st birthday. 

So that brings us to this and I wouldn't have kept you here if I wasn't planning to feed you. What are we having? Why, the same thing I've had for lunch for the last four days: French Lentil Salad. I'm not a creature of habit, so that repetition should tell you something. Most of the components for the salad are laid out above, pre-toss. The cookies/various jars are in the photo above because I was making a point about mornings. I remember the start of "the morning person project." I guess it worked.

Note: I added meat to this because it was headed to a carnivorous household. Take out the sausage and it's not only vegetarian, it's vegan and gluten-free. You can have it all. I based the bones of this recipe on the one over at In Pursuit of More but changed the dressing and added a few things.

French Lentil Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
8 servings (lasts for days in the fridge)
1 cup French green lentils (any lentil will do, I just like these)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium golden beets, ends removed
2 1/2 TB olive oil
1 lb Brussels sprouts, stem end trimmed, then shredded into ribbons
3 apricots, sliced thin off the pit
4 dates, pit removed and sliced to a similar thickness as the apricots
5-6 basil leaves, sliced into ribbons (chiffonade)
Optional: 1 package Spencer's herbed pork bangers

3 TB Dijon mustard
Juice of one large lemon
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1.) Soak your lentils according to package directions. Shoot for at least three hours and, lest you be intimidated, this is literally pouring a cup of lentils into 2 1/2 cups of water and walking away. Do it before bed, do it first thing in the morning, it's easy.

2.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, then toss your sweet potato and red onion with 2TB of olive oil until it's evenly distributed and everything's a little shiny, then season lightly with salt and pepper.

3.) Separately, tear off another piece of foil and add your beets. Gather the sides, then drizzle the last 1/2 TB of olive oil over the top and pinch the ends up very don't want any hot oil to be able to escape.

4.) Put both the tray of onion and the beets in the 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring the pan vegetables at the 15 minute mark. Now would also be a good time to drain your lentils, refill the pot with another 2 1/2 cups of water and bring it to a boil once there, lower it to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are just tender. Drain them and add a splash or two of the vinaigrette so the lentils soak up some of the acidity.

5.) Once the vegetables are done, pull them out to cool, including venting the foil packet for the beets. They'll be hot, but use a paper towel to rub the skins off, then set them aside on your cutting board.

6.) If you're using sausage, this would be the time to fry them up. Get them evenly browned then cut them into small rounds when you're done.

7.) Time to add it all together, then toss with the dressing. It's great fresh, when some of the pieces are still warm, but it's wonderful after it's been marinating for a couple days, too. I think this would also make a great side dish for a lunch or party. Tis the season.

It was so good to see you. Let's not do the thing where we each say we should do it again soon, but no one calls. I'll just trust that it will happen again because it's important. And just in case it takes awhile, let me tell you about a few latest favorite things, a couple represented in the photo above.

Weck jars: Yes, they're cute. But they're also non-toxic, easy to store, cost effective, versatile, and people tend to give them back to me when I gift edibles. Sometimes they're even re-filled with something delicious.

Fleur: My neighbor this past year and a good one. A monthly stroll into that shop all but saved my mental health over the course of a brutal Chicago winter. A shop filled with fresh flowers, great paper products, and brass animals. What could be better?

Malazan Book of the Fallen: A beast of a fantasy series but beautifully written. Ten books. Hundreds of characters. I started reading it with a friend about two weeks before we knew about the cancer and escapism is a real and wonderful thing. Highly recommended for George RR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss fans.

Sportsman's: Shares a name with one of my favorite bars in college but what they lack in fried pickles, they more than make up for in Amaro. Checkerboards for tables, strong drinks, and great company on both sides of the bar. 

Hedley & Bennett apron: Discovered at Sportsman's on one of the bartenders and I just had to have one. I was especially smug when I saw a pile of my favorite chefs wearing them this week. It's sturdy but lightweight and there are plenty of pockets. It's also gender neutral enough that I can offer it to someone else in the kitchen every once and awhile.

Humboldt House: Claire's outfitted basically my entire condo in gorgeous vintage rugs. I'm not the only one that appreciates them. She shares my love for teak and Scandinavian ceramics and hot damn do I love that shop.

Cellar Door Provisions: A tremendous new addition to Logan Square and a place I sneak off for breakfast or lunch whenever the opportunity arises. I love everything and I never leave without a loaf of their house bread, which I've taken to gifting.

Aesop's Breathless oil: When we hugged earlier, this is what I smelled like. Found it in Venice over the winter and haven't looked back.


Kristen said...

It's so good to see you here. Really good. I'm so sorry to hear about your mom's health, but I'll try to send some positive energy your way (and hers).

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