Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I know that when "they" say "luck be a lady", "they" mean for luck to be kind, genteel, and/or ladylike, but for the sake of a lovely alliteration (gotcha!) for today's title, please grant me this folly of luck being a lentil.
In Italian tradition, lentils are eaten at the New Year to help foster wealth in the upcoming year. The lentils resemblance to coins, though incredibly small, greenish-blue coins, is used as an explanation for this tradition, and so I have resolved to eat lentils not just on the New Year, but as frequently as possible, for I could use me some wealth.
As an added bonus, tell anyone you know you're about to eat lentils and they'll respond, "wow. very healthy." Try it. It's amazing. So if you want to give yourself a quite likely false sense of wealth coming your way coupled with a sense of smug satisfaction regarding your healthy eating habits, make yourself up some lentils, and spread the word. Before you know it, you'll be hearing, "Wow, madame. You are so healthy and wealthy." Maybe even wise. I don't know if they'll tell you that, though. To my knowledge, that isn't one of the qualities attributed to lentil consumers, but I could be wrong.
Lentils with bacon and onion:
1 1/2 cups dry lentils, the type of your choosing. They come in green, orange, and greenish-blue French types. How do you picture your money? Probably green.
3 or so changes of cold water for soaking
1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 celery rib, trimmed, rinsed, and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 carrot, peeled, rinsed, and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 small onion, cut into a large dice, in the range of 1/2 inch wide
1-2 cloves garlic
Enough cold water or broth to cover the lentils by 1 inch once they're in the sauce pan
One thing to remember is that when lentils are harvested and sifted, the occasional pebble is going to get caught up in the slew of lentils. And because it is likely a similar size to that of the lentil, it will not sift out of the lentil slew. Therefore, you need to pick over them prior to cooking them. The easiest way to do this is to spread out your cup and a half of dry lentils on a baking sheet and sort through them to remove any small rocks or dirt that will ruin your fantasies of getting rich by eating lentils or becoming the healthiest person you know because of the zeal with which you consume lentils.
Once you have sorted through the lentils to remove stones, rinse them with cold water in a fine mesh colander, or a colander lined with cheesecloth to prevent the lentils from going down the drain. Transfer lentils to a bowl, cover with cold water, and allow to soak. They will soak for approximately 3 hours. Every hour or so, give them a stir to kick up any additional dirt, and then drain them back into the colander, rinse again, and place back in the bowl, covered with cold water. Ideally, by the time you've done this twice, there will be no more dirt in the soaking bowl when you stir them. Be careful not to soak the lentils for too long as they will begin to sprout, and then you will find yourself eating lentil sprouts, not lentils with bacon and onions.
Transfer cleaned, soaked lentils to a medium saucepan and cover with cold water or broth enough that there is one inch of water above the top of the lentils. Add the bacon, celery, carrot, onion, and garlic, bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and allow to simmer for 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove the celery and carrot, and serve them up with roasted chicken, stewed lamb, pork, or maybe even some haddock or other white fish. And watch the money pile up.
Dinner tonight: Mushroom Frittata and Braised Fennel. Estimated cost for two: $5.68. I just collected 5 eggs from the chicken coop. They were out of water again, so in I went to remedy that situation. I'm already doing better with my "better chicken husbandress" resolution, see? I'm going to use 8 eggs total in the frittata, so I'll use 3 from yesterday's collection as well. If you were purchasing eggs at the market at $3.19 for 12 (as they are at Whole Foods for the store brand), this would total $2.13. The mushrooms were $2.25, the onion was 50-cents, the olive oil will be around $1.00, and the thyme will be just the littlest bit, but we'll call that 10-cents. I will use a little mild provolone in the frittata as well, but nearly any hard cheese you have around would be fine. The provolone cost $4.99/pound, so let's call what I'm using 1/4 pound, and that's $1.25. The frittata is $7.23 for 8 servings, or 90-cents per serving. JR will eat two servings, I will eat one, and that's $2.71 including the fraction of a cent that was left behind in the single-serving cost. Be forewarned if you have teen boys or large men in your household, they'll put down a quarter of the pie, that's for sure. With only three servings eaten tonight, JR will wind up with generous frittata leftovers in his lunch the next few days while I eat lentils. I'm really working this lentil thing. The fennel was exactly $2.00 for two medium bulbs. I will use about 60-cents in olive oil, and a cup of apple cider at $2.99 for 8 cups, so that's 37-cents. If it were warmer out, I'd make a simple green salad, but it's January, damn it, and I want warm food.