Potage of quinoa w/ 4 kinds of lentils & 8 kinds of basil

Potage with quinoa and lentils

We visited Monticello last week. It’s so full of beauty, light, and grace that it made me weepy. Less than a mile away, in the visitor’s center, is a recreation of one of Jefferson’s slaves’ dwellings. It’s dark, gloomy, and cramped. That made me weepy, too. Jefferson designed the house with all of the “dependencies” – where the work was done – hidden beneath the building in catacomb-like tunnels. The word “dependencies” struck me as a funny one, in this situation. As you walk through the house and grounds you realize that Jefferson and his family had a complete and childlike dependence on their slaves. Their slaves dressed them, raised their children, grew their food, cooked their food, made their furniture, dug their graves. The man who dug Jefferson’s grave was named Wormley Hughes. He worked in the garden. The garden at Monticello is a thing of wonder. Beautiful, useful, inspiring – a perfect spot to sit and ponder questions of liberty and independence. Wormley Hughes was freed after Jefferson’s death, and shortly thereafter, his wife and 8 of his children were divided and sold.

It’s a discombobulating experience, visiting Monticello. So much beauty, and cleverness – so many good ideas being exchanged, and important work being done. And literally hidden beneath all of it, so much pain and suffering.

Sorry to go on about it! It’s on my mind. I did buy some seeds in the gift shop, to plant in our garden. I’m very excited about our garden this year. We have about 8 kinds of basil, and that’s what I used to make this dish! Back in the Ye Olde Days, they used to have “potage gardens,” and the fruits and vegetables grown there would be used to make potage, a thick stew or porridge. The potage combined all of the different elements of a meal in one bowl, and was a staple in the diet of peasants. This particular potage contains 4 kinds of lentils – beluga, french, red, and split moong. The beauty of this, is that when they’re all cooked together, the quick-cooking varieties (I’m talking to you, moong & red!) melt into a creamy background, while the slower-cooking types (french and beluga) remain a bit al dente. So you have a nice mix of textures. If you can’t find beluga lentils or split moong dal, you could make this with french and red, which are both fairly easy to locate. I roasted the cauliflower separately, because I like that smoky flavor, and then pureed half with broth, and added half whole. This is quite a thick, satisfying dish, and it’s flavorful as well – seasoned with ginger, smoked paprika and tons of fresh basil. It’s funny, though – lentils are so pretty when they’re raw, and so drab when cooked. They make up for it with supreme tastiness, though!

Here’s Blind Willie McTell with Amazing Grace. He doesn’t sing, but it’s almost as if the guitar is speaking the words.
Continue reading

Black quinoa & beluga lentils 2 ways; And semolina buns!

Black quinoa & beluga lentils

We ate quinoa a few times last week, and – as I promised the boys – we turned into Incan super heroes. (It is a “superfood,” you know!). Oh the adventures we had! I’d love to tell you about them, but I’m legally bound to silence, because they’re going to make an animated series based on our exploits. The animation will be a collaboration of Ray Harryhausen and Jules Bass, the music will be supplied by Damon Albarn and Harry Mancini, and Saul Bass is working on the credit sequence as we speak. Each episode will follow a set of normal, modern characters who will suddenly find themselves faced with a problem that only a family of Incan superheroes can solve. When our super powers wane, we eat mounds of quinoa to restore them. (Quinoa companies are currently duking it out for endorsement contracts) In one running gag, the littlest Incan super hero, based on Isaac, refuses to eat his quinoa, and the rest of us say, “We’ll have to go on our adventures without you!”

But let’s get back to the food, man. I remember when it was all about the food. I went to Whole Foods a few weeks back, and I stocked up on black grains. Black barley, black rice, black quinoa… (What, quinoa is not actually a grain, it’s a “pseudocereal”? Good god.) I like black grains and grain-like products because they’re very pretty, and because they usually have a nuttier, meatier taste than their paler cousins. Black quinoa is no exception. It stays a little crunchy, it turns a lovely garnet color, and the little pale squiggly spiral comes out to tell you that it’s done. I thought the quinoa would taste nice (and look good!) with beluga lentils. I wanted to try something a little different with the seasoning, because I feared I was getting stuck in a rut. So I opted for tarragon, fennel seed and ground coriander in a sauce made from white wine and orange juice. Fruity, citrus-tart/sweet, and anise-y! I thought it was nice! I thought it would go well with sweet potatoes and carrots, so I added some of those, too. And I threw in handfuls of baby spinach at the end, because everything is better with baby spinach! We ate it with basmati rice and a salad of arugula and more baby spinach. The rice is probably overkill with the quinoa, but it was one thing I was sure the boys would eat. I grated some sharp cheddar on mine, and I thought it was a nice addition.

Quinoa burgers


We had some quinoa mixture left over, and some extra beluga lentils, so I decided to make them into burgers. I added a little smoked paprika and tamari, for that smoky, meaty edge. I added an egg and some bread crumbs, for substance, and I fried them in a little olive oil. Delicious! They’re a little delicate, but very tasty. I wanted to make rolls for my burgers, so I made some out of semolina. I wanted to keep them simple, but I kept thinking how nice the chinese dumplings we made were, with a little extra sugar, and a touch of vinegar, so I added that. The rolls were tasty, but quite dense. Which was a funny combination with the delicate burgers, but I liked it, although I concede that nice soft store-bought hamburger buns might make more sense in this instance. I heaped some lettuce and fresh spinach and fresh sliced tomato on, and I ate my whole burger! The boys ate them with barbecue sauce, and we made some oven roasted fries to go with them.

semolina buns

Here’s Talib Kweli & MF DOOM with Old School. It’s about cartoon superheroes, and it’s one of my favorites ever!
Continue reading