A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Chicken and Lentils

I've been thinking more about my last post, which sounds like I've got it all figured out. I don't. Knowing how best to think and talk about food is really hard.

And compared to many people I know, maybe I am obsessed with food. Certainly I think about food much more. In fact, that's the real difference between someone who cooks most meals and someone who doesn't: not the time spent preparing food, but the time spent thinking about it. Sure, I often spend an hour or two making dinner, but just as often I spend only ten minutes actually working in the kitchen -- no more time than someone who heats up a few TV dinners. The difference is that earlier in the day I thought about what to make. I probably talked about it, too, or sent a few emails. I didn't have to make myself plan dinner -- it just happened.

For cooks, food takes up a certain amount of constant head space. I just try not to let it take over.

So yesterday afternoon I went to Jason and Laura's to drink and play with their Wii, and before I left I put the following items in the crockpot. By dinnertime four hours later, we had a delicious stew:

- two onions, sliced and sauteed
- somewhat less than a whole chicken, browned (I used 1/3 of it in the soup earlier this week)
- two carrots, chopped
- two cloves garlic, sliced
- a two-inch chunk of ginger, sliced
- two tablespoons pine nuts
- two small dried red chiles, deseeded
- two bay leaves (I promise I didn't mean to put two of everything in)
- one scant tablespoon garam masala
- some peppercorns
- one cup French lentils, rinsed
- water to almost cover
- salt

It was sort of like a tagine, but one made from Indian, Mediterranean, and French ingredients. So I served it with quinoa (South American) and chopped parsley. It was great. I've been making meat-free versions of similarly seasoned lentils lately, too.


Kerry said...

Sounds good. I cook a lot of Med. dishes using the cookbook Arabesque, which I highly recommend.

Last night I cooked "Makhlouta" which in the Arabesque cookbook is made with Red Lentils + Arborio Rice + Ground Coriander topped with Fried Onions and some cumin. Ready in 30 minutes or less and always tasty.

You're not alone in your love for food or cooking habit.

Kris said...

What stunning pictures!

I don't think food obsession is such a bad thing. To me it's a link to the real world, especially if you grow some of your own food, or shop in farm markets. Eating is a natural animal function, and we're worse off if we are so separate from nature that we can eat doughnuts and frozen pizza and chicken nuggets without even noticing. (We animals are so adaptable! Cats can eat cat chow and stay indoors and not kill birds.)

Of course it would be good if we could sometimes be satisfied with a piece of fruit, some cheese, and a whole-grain cracker--without getting tied up in creating a perfect meal. That's something I'm getting better at.