- 22 Apr 20
What have I been eating for dinner lately? And lunch, and breakfast, and in the near constant snacking period between 12 and 5pm due to the fact that my kitchen counter is now my home office?
I've been getting more adventurous in the kitchen lately. Not baking my own bread-level adventurous (I'm convinced my hob is partially defective), but I've definitely been working my way steadily toward more exciting meal plans. Thank God I genuinely love to cook. Otherwise, I'd just Deliveroo everything straight to my couch while watching Friends reruns for the 7000th time.
Now that I have the time on my hands, cooking a serious dinner has become a kind of sacred ritual in my apartment. Not unlike yoga, as a matter of fact. It's a practice I engage in solely for myself, it takes time and effort to improve – recipes require practice to learn and perfect. Unlike yoga, however, cooking has my favourite reward at the end: food.
One of the benefits of home cooking is that it's quite easy to eat healthily on minimal funding. This week, pantry staples have been a life-saver. The lentil and chickpea have made an astonishingly frequent return to my diet. I'm a pseudo-pescatarian (more on that later), so this column will most likely consist of vegetarian and fishy eats.
The showstoppers this week are modified versions of Ali Slagle's Lentil Cacciatore (a vegan twist on the Italian chicken classic), and Melissa Clark's Asparagus Salad with toasted pecans, fresh dill and Manchego cheese. My New York Times subscription has essentially paid for itself, with the amount of recipes I pull from their website every week. What I've outlined below won't be exactly the same as the NYT recipes, but they are linked above if you'd like to try them.
¾ cup pecans
1 large bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped.
½ cup fresh dill
3 tablespoons minced scallions
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Large pinch of kosher salt, plus more as needed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
¾ cup coarsely grated Manchego cheese
Heat oven to 175 Celsius. On a rimmed baking sheet, spread pecans in an even layer and toast for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle, then roughly chop.
Meanwhile, grill, poach, steam or sauté your asparagus (totally up to you – I grilled, but of course the method by which one cooks asparagus is a very personal choice). If you're poaching, be careful not to over poach (this will result in sad, yellow, wilty asparagus). 2 minutes in boiling water should do.
Finely chop 3 tablespoons dill. In a medium bowl, combine shallot, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and the pepper, and let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk in oil, then stir in pecans, cheese and chopped dill.
To serve, drizzle asparagus with oil and salt to taste. Top with dressing, tear remaining dill over the whole thing, and shave a little more cheese over top. Great with a glass of sauvignon blanc.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, stems and seeds removed, thinly sliced lengthwise
Kosher salt and black pepper
8-10 black or green pitted olives, sliced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoons fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup red wine (a great way to get rid of the last bit of that horrible merlot you absolutely cannot bring yourself to finish)
1 (400g) tin chopped tomatoes
¾ cup red lentils (you don't need to soak these overnight, just rinse)
In a large dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper, and cook until just softened (this takes around 3 minutes).
Add the olives (I used green), tomato paste, garlic rosemary and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato paste begins to stick to the bottom of the pot (2 to 3 minutes).
Add wine (my favourite part!!), season with salt and pepper, and cook until nearly all the liquid has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add tomatoes, red lentils and 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, partly cover, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes Stir from time to time, in order to scrape any stuck lentils from the bottom of the pot. Season generously with salt and pepper.
I found that this stew is absolutely hearty enough with the carrots and bell pepper, but if you're looking for something tasty to go with it, why not try these easy cheddar & onion buttermilk biscuits.