Friday, December 4, 2009

40 degrees feels very cold

Northeasterly wind, temperatures near freezing and precipitation from someplace or other came together this morning to create perfect conditions for snow in Austin: meaning I saw about 18 flakes hit my windshield. Then they disappeared and left us all with just a plain cold day, one without the rare and exciting prospect of real snowfall.

This is Austin, though, so a few schools did close for a snow day. We here are fanatical in our fear of weather that's cold and wet at the same time.

Flurries or not, the chill was enough to make me want something hot for lunch. So I went home and made this French-style warm lentil salad from Orangette, proving that it is possible to make something other than quesadillas during an hourlong lunch break. Of course, that's provided you live a barely plural 1.1 miles from work (as I do) and are willing to take some recipe shortcuts. If you chew quickly, you might even have a second to spare for a photo. Another time saver: I never even took my coat off. Conditions are just that arctic.

Lentils for lunch

Very loosely adapted from Orangette for the sake of speed

½ cup French green lentils

• 1½ cups water

• 1 bay leaf (Mine was Mediterranean, not Turkish, as called for. This was OK.)

• salt

• a dab of oil

• half of a fat shallot, minced as small as you have time for

• leftover cucumber end (about a quarter of a largish one)

• what's left of a 10-ounce bag of carrot "matchstix." (But hey, the package also says "French-cut cooking carrots." Very fancy.)

• 1 clove garlic, chopped smallish

• sprinkling of dried thyme

• Drew's All Natural Rosemary Balsamic dressing, or whatever ready-made vinaigrette you have

Drive home, walk into the house and immediately put lentils, water and bay leaf into a pot and turn the heat to medium-high. Bring them to a boil. Do some slapdash but reasonably careful chopping. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until almost tender, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle in some salt, then simmer, covered, for another 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. My lentils needed slightly longer, so make sure to taste them for doneness.

About halfway through the lentil cooking time, warm the oil in a skillet over medium-low and heat the shallot, carrots, cucumber, garlic, thyme and some salt. Stir every now and then for the next 7 to 9 minutes. Drain the lentils in a sieve and pick out the bay leaf. Dump the lentils into the skillet with the vegetables, add the vinaigrette and stir to combine everything.

You could relocate things to a new bowl, but you're in a hurry and no one else is around, so don't worry about this step too much. (I did, and all it got me was another dish to wash.) Pack up and rush back to work, thinking about how you'll come home to a disorderly kitchen, but eating something warm and homemade on a cold day was worth it.

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