After the culinary debauchery of Xmas, you're probably looking for something fast, easy, economical and healthy. It's time you got to know the humble lentil. Its versatility will make it a staple of your kitchen.
These humble legumes are packed with fiber, protein and iron. They are filling, comforting and fat free. They come in various forms from red to black to green to brown. I use the small red ones and larger brown ones the most though my favorites are probably the French puy lentils; they're considered the caviar of the family.
Soups and stews are an obvious choice for sure but they make great vegetarian burgers and roasts and are a good alternative to ground beef in cottage pie. I also love them as a salad. Many's the evening I have arrived home a little late and lentils have saved my bacon. After a flurry of initial prep that I often do after putting the baby somewhere and feeding the cat, I can sigh with relief as they bubble happily on the stove and I can get changed, play with the baby and watch some news. Dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes.
This curry is rich and satisfying. By all means add some of your favorite vegetables to bulk it up.
2 tablespoons of canola oil
14 oz 1 can of coconut milk
14 oz Dried Red lentil (basically fill the empty coconut milk can with the lentils)
14 oz of chicken or vegetable stock
1 onion finely chopped
1 inch of ginger minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tablespoon of curry paste (I like Patak's mild)
1 teaspoon of turmeric
This risotto tastes a bit like a savory rice pudding. Since finding brown Jasmine rice, we have pretty much abandoned white rice. Except for this dish. It is easy, quick and comforting and I don’t mess with a good thing.
The original recipe was given to me by secretary of the language school I worked at in Italy. I was complaining that I was bored with my own food and wanted something new but not fussy to make. I remember her explaining this rice dish to me in the simplest way possible since my Italian was not good. ‘Riso, uovo, mozzarella, burro, basta.’ It was almost a poem and the resulting dish was too. I then added the lemon and cabbage which I think horrified her. Sorry Ester!
Serves 2 at least
Two cups of Arborio rice
Half the head of small white cabbage, shredded thinly
2 eggs beaten
A ball of mozzarella pulled into small pieces (makes about a cup)
Two tablespoons of butter
The juice of half a large lemon
Salt and pepper
Polpette are meatballs and polpettone is meatloaf.
The second year I lived in Foggia a middle-aged woman attended one of my EFL classes. She twitched and blinked like a sparrow and every time I spoke to her in English she would giggle nervously: 'Che dice - what did she say?' She once pinched my cheek when leaving class, so I was not an immediate fan since I resent unsolicited physical contact. Over time though, she became a friend - possibly because she lent a tirelessly sympathetic ear to me when I broke up with my boyfriend. She also cooked incredible food. She had a propensity for oversharing and adopting stray dogs that would pee ungratefully all over her gorgeous apartment. Thinking back it was a not a healthy friendship, based on co-dependency and a transaction her food for my company. Her polpette bianche were a particular favorite. This recipe is the same as those polpette but I choose to cook it as a meatloaf since it saves time and the big slabs are more gratifying.
The loaf is part steamed in wine. That and the addition of the milk-soaked breadcrumbs make for a luscious and moist loaf. Leaving it to stand before serving means the juices will seep back into the meat without it losing its shape.
For the load itself:
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup white breadcrumbs soaked in milk to form a thick porridge
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
1 large slice of mortadella or ham, finely chopped
1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 400 F
1 tbsp butter
1 small glass of wine
1 loaf tin/dish
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