Times are hard. We know this because we hear it every time we turn on the radio. It’s been a rough year. It’s been a rough couple of years. Well, I’ve always enjoyed trying to make the most of the food I have – trying to think of something inventive to make with the contents of my cupboard, and trying to use every bit of food I cook, in one form or another. This hearkens back to the way people cooked during the first depression. The food was often vegetarian, and people found ingenious ways to stretch it to feed as many as possible, or to use simple leftovers to make a meal so good even meat-eaters didn’t miss their meat. Left-over mashed potatoes would become croquettes, leftover beans would go in a stew. Some of the most memorable dishes from around the world were initially devised as money-saving ingredient-stretching feasts. Over the years, I’ve developed a scheme for using leftovers creatively. It’s not just the dishes that are elegant in this scheme – although you’ll feel like you were dining at William Powell’s night club – it’s the way everything fits together. If, say, you make a big batch of french lentils on Saturday, and you make a dish with rice on Sunday…on Monday you can make a delicious mujadara-like dish. Add one beaten egg, and you have a tasty mujadara egg-fried rice. The flavorings are sage, rosemary and thyme, and are enhanced with shallots and onions. Very satisfying! On the night I made this, I also cooked some potatoes in a clay pot, and made brown-butter-roasted cauliflower, and a simple salad of arugula and goat cheese. Everything tasted wonderful together. And the roasted cauliflower and potatoes will show up another day in a soup, (stay tuned!) which will take a fraction of the time to cook, because they’re already roasted!
In which we outline a cooking plan for the new depression.
Here’s Times is Tight Like That, by Bo Carter, and a recipe for french lentil mujadara fried rice is after the jump.
1 cup (or more) french lentils, prepared this way. (If you don’t have them leftover, it’s worth making them just for this dish – because they’re very lovely to have around to toss in salads, or with pasta, or make into croquettes. And the water you cook them in becomes a good broth for soups)
2 cups cooked rice (I prefer basmati!)
1 shallot finely diced
1 clove of garlic finely diced
1/2 t. sage
1 t. rosemary
1/2 t. thyme
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, grated (optional)
salt and plenty of pepper
Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the shallot, when that starts to brown, add the garlic and herbs. When that starts to brown add the lentils and rice. Stir to coat and heat everything. When it’s all quite hot, take it off the heat. Stir in the cheese, and then stir in the egg all at once, mixing fast and well so you won’t get lumps of egg. Unless you like lumps of egg!