…on good food, questionable judgment, and making life work
Sometimes your errands take longer than you planned. Sometimes the weather keeps you from going to the grocery store. Sometimes you get lost in a book and lose track of the time. Sometimes you get a new video game in the mail and squander four or five hours learning how to play it, and you are late picking up one of your offspring from a playdate. Incidentally, in that last scenario–if you haven’t seen the parents of your kid’s playdate in more than six months and you have since cut off all of your hair, are wearing your giant nerd glasses (which you maybe never do), and the parents don’t recognize you, do not make a joke about being in witness protection.Anyhoo, so now you’re stuck making pantry dinner. You know, dinner where you didn’t plan a meal and now have to make something from the current contents of your larder? We have pantry dinner a lot in this house. In fact, I like to push the limits of what my pantry stock can do.
I always have lentils–usually a bunch of different varieties. I’ll often, but not always, have some pastas. Sometimes, I’ll have potatoes. I always have rice, and usually some groats. (Aaaaaaaand I just tried to post a link to info about groats, but I can see from my cursory search that I’ll have to make my own informational post about said groats…) I usually have frozen peas, beans, spinach, and other vegetables. You’ll find fresh onions and garlic, and almost always celery and carrots. I don’t have many canned beans, because I have the luxury of being at/working from home, and therefor usually have lots of dried beans and split peas. But more than once, I have run out of salt–a post for another time.
Today, I have potatoes, brown lentils, onion, garlic, celery, carrot, half of a green pepper (I really don’t like green peppers, but I am in the minority in this house.) So, yeah. Lentils and potatoes. I could do a fake-o curry, but we had curry twice this week. Then I remember that my kids love lentil tacos. Then, my mind wandered to Chorizo con Papas. Now, don’t get me wrong–lentils have very little in common with chorizo. But I sure as hell can get the spices close. Plus, I have a secret-lazy-it’ll make your kids eat anything-ingredient. Don’t judge me.
1 cup brown lentils
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 of a green pepper, chopped (optional)
2-4 cloves garlic (go big), minced
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (if you don’t have smoked paprika, do whatever you have to do to get some, it fixes so many things that are wrong)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano, rubbed between your palms as you add it in
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups water
a 1 inch thick slice of Velveeta (or generic Velveeta, if you live in this house), cubed. Yes, that says what you think it says. SHUT. UP.
Combine everything except Velveeta in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer, and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove cover, turn heat to medium or medium-high, and cook, stirring often until the liquid has mostly evaporated, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the Velveeta until it is melted.
While you are cooking the lentils, make the potatoes.
6-8 medium to small potatoes, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks (use larger or more potatoes, if you want more)
2 tbs canola oil (bacon fat is also very good here, just melt it in your microwave before using)
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 500°. Line a baking sheet (or two, if you are making a larger batch) with parchment for easy clean-up and no sticking. Toss the potatoes with the oil or fat (I do this right on the baking sheet) and add salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning once. They are done when they are beautiful golden brown.
To finish, I just layer potatoes and the lentils in a bowl. I intentionally keep the lentils mildly spiced for the kids. However, if you don’t know about zhug, I can’t say enough good things about it. I am so passionate about preaching the virtues of the stuff–I have it in my fridge at all times, and there have been many days where I have eaten it with every meal. It is delightful, and I encourage you to make your own–this is my preferred recipe.
Anyway, put a healthy dollop of zhug (or sambal, or sriracha) on there, enjoy a warm, spicy, satisfying meal, and get back to
playing Everybody Dance™ being productive and setting a good example for your children.