Lentils for breakfast- welcome

Here is your invitation to sample beautiful recipes that are good for you, good for the planet and good to eat. They mainly feature plants, because that's what I try to eat the most. I am not a fancy cook, but I believe that food is one of our greatest pleasures and deserves to be celebrated. Real food, whole food, kind food. Welcome to the feast!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Surprisingly simple way to make wholefoods easier

Roasted cauliflower was a revelation. Meltingly soft and sweet . .
I have never considered roasting cauliflower.

I've always associated cauliflower with water. It's also always seemed a bit fiddly. And as I'm the only one in our household who likes it, I've always been put off by the fact that they are only available as whole or half cauliflowers, and that means cooking up more than I can eat in one sitting.

Similarly, I've never really liked the notion of boiling vegetables. Steaming is OK, but the word boiling is redolent of the smell of cabbage wafting down hallways at my boarding school. Boiling the crap out of vegetables was part of the British character in those days.

Tamar Adler
Well, both those notions were pleasantly tested this week when I read this wonderful article in the Well section of the NY Times. It's about a book called An Everlasting Meal from Tamar Adler whose approach to better food and cooking starts with setting a pot of water on to boil.

Tamar started her career as an editor (at Harpers: impressive) and then moved into cooking at several noteworthy restaurants, including Chez Panisse. She clearly embraces a slow cooking style where little is wasted and the uncomplicated dishes are the result of an intuitive response to fresh ingredients.

How Tamar prepares vegetables
Tamar's suggestions for preparing vegetables were an epiphany for me.

She returns to her stylish kitchen with bags of fresh produce, and proceeds to make the lot straightaway. A good many are roasted, including cauliflower. Others are sauteed or boiled.

Then she spoons them into glass jars and stores them in the fridge for later use. As Tara Parker-Pope notes in her article, this essentially turns vegetables into convenience food. Tamar shows you how she 'strides ahead' as she puts it in the elegant videos on her website.

A solution to the lunch dilemma
Ever since I started making my lentils for breakfast I have been all too conscious of the time required to make each recipe I've tried. Peeling, chopping, roasting, steaming, simmering and then washing up, packing and unpacking the dishwasher . . . And, as I have written before, I haven't been successful in preparing a lunch dish ahead as well.

This week, I drew inspiration from Tamar.

I made a batch of vegetables on Saturday - cavalo nero, sweet potato, green beans (and some exquisite poached peaches). It was a lovely, peaceful way to spend a couple of hours.

On Sunday, I roasted cauliflower and carrots and made the lentils. Now I have a bountiful supply of ingredients to combine for breakfast and lunch in the days ahead. Much less stressful, and so sensible that it seems madness not to have thought of doing this before.

Lentilicious helps to make it easy
I saved loads of time by making a packet of Coconut Fusion lentils from Lentilicious, sent to me by the fantastic Sharna and Anthea (thanks again, girls!). It is a beautiful, aromatic combination, irresistible even. I mixed in the revelatory roasted cauliflower for extra texture and flavour and the result is divine.

Coconut fusion lentils with roasted cauliflower. Tastes better than you might think from the pic! Roasted carrots drying off.

Good food is simple food
Tamar's view is that many people these days are intimidated by cooking. The 'convenience food generation' have not had the experience of seeing their mothers cook each day and, paradoxically, all those cooking shows and gorgeous recipe books make everyday cooking less accessible.

But we can discover cooking with a pot of salted, boiled water for vegetables or pasta or a chicken . . . good, nourishing food can be simply prepared and making it can be an enjoyable part of the day.

I read through some of the comments accompanying the article. One of them stated that cooking has become like sewing - a pursuit for the enthusiast, not a general activity that everyone engages in. Just recently I had lunch with a friend who has returned from New York. She said native New Yorkers thought she was eccentric for buying food and making it at home, instead of ordering in or going out.

I hope Tamar is a young harbinger of a shift in that world view. I can't wait to read the book.

What do you think? Can you imagine yourself in the kitchen preparing a week's worth of vegetables at once? Would it help your cooking if you did? Don't you think Tamar is an unusual name?!

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