Uncertainty is my life right now. One of my favorite ways of dealing with it is sinking into the tranquil moments of my routine: Get home from work. Put away my bag. Change into comfy clothes. Make the bed. Tidy up. And then my favorite part – dinner.
When I’m really feeling the stress of uncertainty, I like to make hearty and simple food. Today, it was French lentils. I listened to them softly cascade from the measuring cup to the strainer. I enjoyed the cool water from the tap as I rinsed the dark green lentils, before adding them to a pot of simmering broth. While they cooked on the stove, I chopped a small onion, admiring the way the layers broke apart so cleanly. I pushed a clove of garlic around a ceramic grater, until I was left with a garlicky pulp, the scent clinging to my finger tips. As I waited for the lentils to cook, I fished around in the cabinet for the cracked rosemary, and the tin of ground thyme.
I was feeling indulgent, so I melted a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter in a pan, sauteing the onions until the light passed through them. In went the garlic, and when it started to turn golden brown, I strained the lentils and added them in, too, sprinkling the rosemary and thyme over top, with a shake or two of flaky kosher salt. When I felt like everything was done, I took the pan off heat, and scooped the lentils onto a small plate, adding a sweet apple chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s.
Then, I snuggled up on the couch with my steaming food and a tall glass of water. The solitude was a warm blanket; the food nourishment for my body, the cooking nourishment for my soul. It cleared a quiet path, where I found the calm that I needed.
If you’re interested in making some French lentils of your own, here’s the basic recipe.
Simple French Lentils
- 1/3 cup French lentils (lentilles du Puy)
- 3-4 cups chicken broth
- 1 small onion (shallots would work as well)
- 1-2 cloves garlic, grated (if mincing garlic, add more)
- 1-2 tbsp unsalted butter
- Cracked rosemary, to taste
- Ground thyme, to taste
- Kosher salt, to taste
Time: About 40 minutes
- Boil the chicken broth in a medium-sized sauce pan.While waiting for the broth to heat up, pick through the lentils for small stones, etc. and rinse thoroughly. Once the broth is boiling, add the lentils and reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally. After about 25 minutes, try a lentil or two – they should be al dente. Reserve some of the liquid, then drain in a colander.
- While the lentils are cooking, dice the onion and grate the garlic.
- Once the lentils are done, melt the butter in a medium-sized skillet or saute pan. Saute the onions until they’re translucent and start to caramelize. Then add the garlic, and once it’s started to brown just a little bit, add in the drained lentils.
- Mix everything together, adding in the cracked rosemary, ground thyme, and kosher salt to taste. If the lentils aren’t savory and delicious, then keep adding the seasonings! This stage should only take a few minutes; too much time and the lentils will get a bit dry.
- Flatten out the lentils in the pan, and let sit for about 45 seconds. Take off heat and serve immediately.
This is the kind of dish that makes good leftovers! Just reheat in a loosely covered dish with a little bit of the chicken broth you reserved, or a few sprinkles of water.