French Lentil and Black Rice soup (and burgers) And the most beautiful short film I’ve seen in years

La Bienvenida by Fernando Eimbcke is a beautiful short film about commitment, hope, and a refusal to be disappointed. It tells the story of a band in a small town in Mexico. They are learning a piece by Mozart to welcome an unnamed dignitary to their town. The film focuses on the sousaphone player, who is having some trouble mastering his part. We follow him on the long walk home from practice, watch him sit outside his small house in the moonlight, playing his part. Watch him walk to two stores looking for milk for his crying baby, then feeding the baby, then practicing in the moonlight again, and waking the next day, still in the chair outside his house, slumped over his instrument. Then walking to the town to take his place with the band under banners and streamers. It’s a hot day, there’s a long wait, there’s a pale donkey. And I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s delightful, delightful.

Everything about this film is beautiful to me. It glows like it was filmed on the moon: shifting shadows and glowing lights. A crocheted blanket over a window, a convenience store in the middle of nowhere, the pale donkey, the sousaphone itself, the warm, kind face of the sousaphone player: everything is beautiful. I see echoes of Fellini in the town scenes, echoes of Kurosawa in the landscapes, echoes of Jarmusch and Ozu in the rhythm, pace, and stillness of the movement. But it has a language and aesthetic all its own. So much is left unexplained, and the dialogue is barely existent, but you feel real love for the man and his baby, and the white haired woman rocking the baby. Visually it’s got a remarkable cool-warmth, and the story itself also glows with a generosity and honesty and quiet humor. Take ten minutes and watch this remarkable film. Yes I used the word “glow” too often, but I love things that glow, I love the word “glow” and this film GLOWS.

The short is part of a collection of shorts by Mexican directors called Revolucion, and all of them are worth watching. Fernando Eimbcke also directed Temporada de Patos (Duck Season), one of my favorite films ever.

In a similar vein, we have a mixed CD of musicians from Lagos, which I’m slightly obsessed with at the moment. This morning I said, “I love this one.” and David said, “Oh yeah, that’s very Claire-y.” Turns out it’s by Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson. It’s not actually unlike La Bienvenida, with its cool melty warmth, its light and darkness, its slightly-out-of-tune horns. And here it is:

I was thinking of writing a cookbook of meals that you can turn into burgers or croquettes the next day if you have leftovers. It’s such a thrifty, depression-era way to cook, and I hate hate hate throwing food away. In my experience, anything you make with legumes and grains can easily be made into croquettes or burgers with a couple of additions. Generally if it’s saucy you want to add things to bulk it up and dry it out: bread or cracker crumbs, always, and lately I’ve been adding a small amount of chickpea flour and high gluten flour (which is what they make seitan from). This made a nice warm, smokey, brothy, substantial soup, and delicious burgers the next day.

1 cup black rice
2 cups water

1 cup French lentils
1 Bay Leaf

2 T olive oil
1 large shallot
1 t each fresh rosemary & Thyme, cleaned and chopped
1 smallish turnip, peeled (or washed) and chopped in about 1/3-inch dice
1 smallish carrot, peeled or washed and chopped in about 1/3-inch dice
1t smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic, Peeled and minced
1 T tomato Paste
1 T chipotle purée
1/4 cup white wine
Vegetable Broth (about 1 quart)
Knob of butter
Dash of balsamic
salt and LOTS of freshly ground black pepper
Minced parsley, if you have it

Cook black rice according to package instructions. For me, it’s 1 cup rice to 2 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes till it’s soft but still toothsome.

Combine the lentils, bayleaf, and enough water to cover by a couple inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes till the lentils are soft but still have some bite.

In a large sauce pan warm the olive oil. Add the shallot and herbs, stir and fry for a couple minutes till the shallot starts to brown. Add the carrots and turnip, continue to stir and fry until they start to brown. Add the garlic and smoked paprika, stir and fry for a few seconds. Add the tomato paste and chipotle puree. Stir and fry until everything is thick and browning, then add the wine. Stir till everything is thick and brown.

Stir in the cooked lentils and rice. I used about 3/4 of each and set the rest aside to use in burgers the next day. You can add according to your appetite and preference.

Stir in the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, till everything is combined and warm and cooked through.

Add the butter, balsamic, salt, pepper and parsley.



As the leftover soup sat in the fridge it should have thickened up considerably. If not you can strain off the broth (though you can reserve to add a little if the mixture gets too dry.

To the leftovers add the extra rice and lentils, 1 egg, about 1 cup cracker or bread crumbs. 1 T chickpea flour. 1 T High Gluten flour, an extra shake of smoked paprika. Adjust amounts so that the mixture is dry enough to form burgers.

Preheat the oven to 425 and generously coat a baking sheet with vegetable oil. Form the lentil/rice mixture into patties. Put on the sheet, then turn to coat both sides with oil.

Bake about 15 – 20 minutes until crispy and brown, turning from time to time. Towards the end you can add a slice of the cheese of your choice to melt on top of the burger.

I serve these with soft buns that I will one day provide the recipe for, lettuce, tomato, avocado and a tahini lemon sauce.


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