Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Eating Omily: Lentil them Drink Cat!

Fun things are happening in the Land of Meal Planning!  Join us!  We've got lentils!  Um...did I say lentils? I meant cocktails! But hey, vegan friends, we've got lentils, too!

I touched on this last week, but hands-down my favourite part of meal planning is that I'm actually USING the awesome cookbooks that I have.  Since I choose what we're going to have for dinner every night for the upcoming week over the weekend, I can start by looking at whats hanging around in our kitchen, then take a flip through my cookbooks looking for a recipe that features those ingredients.  I make my grocery list based on what staples we're low on (gotta get oregano next week!) and any extras I need for the recipes I picked, and voila!  We're having new, tasty dishes all over the place!

Which brings us back to lentils!  I had green lentils out of a can once, and that was a terrifying experience.  Maybe all canned foods taste more tinny in Italy?  I didn't have the courage to try them again stateside.  We're fans of red lentils, and usually make those with curry-inspired flavors and presentations, but on a whim the other day I bought a bag of green lentils.  I found an easy, and tasty recipe in "Quick Vegetarian Pleasures" (which won the James Beard award for Cookbook of the Year, and is not about eco-friendly vibrators, thank you very much).

This is a great recipe, and you guys will definitely want to try it.  My favourite part was how the rice and lentils cooked TOGETHER in the same pot!  Mind=blown.  You do need another pan, but trust me, it's worth it.

SO, for balsalmic lentils (it needs a better name if you ask me, something like, One Ok Two Pan Complete Meal of Wonder with lentils.  I'll work on that), you need:

1 1/2 cups of green lentils
1/2 cup of brown rice
1/2 tsp. of dried thyme (more or less)
1/2 tsp. of salt (I error on the side of more)
1 bay leaf (it's ok if you don't have it, but they are nice to have around)
some freshly ground pepper
and 5 cups of water

Put all that in a pan, bring it up to a boil, turn it way down so it doesn't boil over, but stays at a 'lively' simmer, and set a timer for 25 minutes.

While that does its thing, thinly slice 1 1/2-2 large onions, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, and one carrot.  Put the onion and carrot in a big, heavy skillet with a generous amount of olive oil.  Add salt, and let them cook for the entire 25 minutes the lentils are cooking.  Add the garlic during the last five or ten minutes so it doesn't burn.  Keep the heat fairly low so the onions don't stick and burn, but you do want to hear some good simmering sounds.  The onions will slowly release their liquids, shrinking quite a bit, the liquids will evaporate, and THEN, the onions will slowly start to carmelize, turning brown. 

They likely won't get all that brown in twenty-five minutes unless you've got a really big pan.  If you want them REALLY caramelized, then start the onions a good ten or fifteen minutes before you start the lentils.  Keep a close eye on them, and turn them off when they're brown throughout (not brown around the edges, as in starting to burn).  If yours don't seem to be releasing liquid, but just sticking and burning, your heat may be too high, or they may have needed a bit more salt.  Don't panic; add a little water, scrape up the bits stuck to the pan, and knock the heat back a bit.  Caramelizing onions definitely takes some practice, but onions that have been cooked slowly are going to be delicious whether they truly caramelize or not, so don't sweat it.

When the lentils and rice are done, drain them thouroughly, then combine the veggies with the lentils and rice in whichever pan is bigger, with 1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.  Stir it all together, gently so as not to smoosh the lentils, and let it cook for two more minutes.  That's all there is to it!  And it looks like this:
Yum yum yum...lentils have more protein than red meat, and the brown rice make this a complete protein that's also full of fiber, and yes, this one is 100% vegan!  It's really cheap to make, and it makes a ton, so it's a great choice for when you're feeding a crowd (take a close look Mom, John, and Alex!).

But WAIT!  I said COCKTAILS!!  And would I lie to you about something so important?  Definitely not.  I've been going sugar-free (as in no processed white sugar; I'm allowed very small amounts of honey and maple syrup, booze with no added sugar, and very very small, infrequent amounts of organic evaporated cane juice), and that has knocked some of my favourite drinks (old fashioneds, hello!) off the list.  Necessity is the mother of invention, right?  I made up this tasty and lovely drink using my favourite tipple (Irish whiskey), and SNAP, an artisanal ginger liqueur that packs a punch with a proof not far off my whiskey's.

To make two, put four to six orange segments in the bottom of your shaker, and muddle them thoroughly with a wooden spoon.  Then add four shots of Irish whiskey, and two shots of SNAP.  Add ice, then shake it till you can't hold it anymore because the cold hurts your hands.  Pour the drinks into two preferably frosted martini glasses.  I call this snappy citrus treat, "The Ginger Cat Who Ate the Canary".  As is, you can just call it 'the ginger cat'.  For the canary, scoop the muddled orange out of the shaker, and drop it into the glasses.  The bits of orange floating around look like the yellow feathers of a canary.  Cute, right?

There you have it.  Dinner and drinks.  I'm practically handing you a classy date!  Next week we'll talk home-made mayonaise, along with whatever delicious things I've whipped up since then...word in the fridge is that duck is on the menu!!


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