I need to talk about dinner. The food I share here, which undeniably tends toward the sugary, may have led you to believe that I only consume treats and cocktails. If only. The truth is that I adore vegetables and cook them pretty much every night. Even though the boyfriend and I are just a little family of two, it still feels totally important for us to eat food together at the end of the day.
You’re already rolling your eyes aren’t you? No, of course I don’t cook every night and I’ll be the first to admit that we would starve were it not for canned chickpeas. There are the nights when even opening a can is too much and I fall back on one of these little boxes of shame, which I always have in my freezer. Inexplicably, I fell in love with this product and that’s all I’m going to say because I’m embarrassed that I eat frozen macaroni and cheese that is neither macaroni nor cheese.
The truth is, after a wild day out in the world, cooking a good-for-you dinner feels like fighting back. It’s insisting to go slow and be well. At least that’s what I tell myself when I am exhausted and trying to motivate myself not to plop down on the couch and eat corn chips directly from the bag.
I realized recently that what I very often look for in a book or a blog is something good for dinner. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone straight to 101 cookbooks to help figure out what to cook for the week. Plenty has also totally upped my dinner game. I’m not much for celebrity chefs, but I’m here to profess my unwavering love for Yotam Ottolenghi. He has a column in The Guardian, a bunch of successful restaurants in London, and Plenty, a culinary love letter to vegetables that insists they’re the stars of the plate.
He wrote this really poetic thing about salads recently that I think perfectly characterizes his cooking style, “the challenge is to make complete strangers – ingredients that have only just met – seem like old friends.” The components of his recipes don’t necessarily seem like they’d get along, but they’re completely in love.
I can’t wait to cook through summer with Plenty (there’s a recipe for “tomato party” that I’ve been eyeing longingly all winter). In the name of better dinners, I’ve made a goal for myself to share more of my meals in this space, like this Ottolenghi-inspired salad of black lentils with celeriac and mint.
I’m also giving away a copy of Plenty. Leave a comment on this post before 6pm eastern time on Friday, 3/23 to be entered to win. Random.org and I will choose a winner Friday night. (This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents.)
Black Lentils with Celeriac and Mint, just barely adapted from Plenty
Serving Size: 2 as a main dish, 3-4 as a side
- 1 small (8oz) celeriac, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch long matchsticks
- 1/2 cup black lentils, rinsed
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 1/2 t apple cider vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh mint, cut into ribbons, to taste
- Toast the pecans in a bare skillet (I used cast iron) over med-high heat until they just begin to get dark spots. Remove and set aside.
- Bring lentils, water, and bay leaf to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low and barely simmer until the lentils are tender, but still hold their shape, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, boil the celeriac in a separate small sauce pan until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In a large bowl whisk together the olive oil and vinegar to make the dressing.
- Once the lentils are done, drain as much water off as you can and immediately toss them in the bowl with the dressing. Add the celeriac, pecans, and salt & pepper to taste.
- When you're ready to serve it, garnish with fresh mint.