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.
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Malcolm’s supreme spicy croquettes

My Malcolm is a temperamental boy, and I’m not always the most patient mother. When we try to work together on a school project, it doesn’t always end well. But when we cook together, we make quite a team. Over the summer, Malcolm invented a sauce with roasted red peppers, roasted beets and roasted tomatoes. He smelled every spice in the cabinet, choosing the perfect mix for his sauce. It turned out delicious! Smoky, spicy, slightly sweet. He named it “Malcolm’s supreme spicy sauce.” This weekend, he had the idea of turning the sauce into cookies. I suggested we make croquettes, using his signature spice mix, and we added some pureed moong dal. The result was something between a croquette and a cookie, like nothing I’ve ever tasted. But it was a wonderfully tasty dinner! We dipped it in a tart-sweet tamarind sauce, and ate it alongside cauliflower puree and spinach sauteed with garlic and mixed with goat cheese, tomatoes and pesto. And a salad of course! Malcolm ate 4 croquettes, and Isaac tried it, and ran crying from the table, saying, “I tried it and I liked it, but I want something I knew I liked, like pasta or rice!” Ah, yoots.

Spinach, pesto, & goat cheese

Here’s one of Malcolm’s favorite songs, K’naan’s Bang Bang, which gets extra points for using the phrase

Hotter than a pepper-crusted Samosa.

I want a pepper-crusted samosa!!

Recipe coming up…
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