When I was a kid I disliked soups and stews, and hated even the idea of lentil soup. Fortunately I became more open-minded as an adult, and found that I absolutely love lentil soup. It’s very healthy for you, to boot.
The red lentils in this recipe break down and make a very creamy soup. Green and brown lentils may be substituted, but black lentils don’t work out well.
Dutch oven, or a large pot
2 medium carrots, diced or sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
olive oil (about 3 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth, about 1 ½ boxes of store-bought
Substitute with vegetable broth for a vegan soup
2 cups dried red lentils (about 1 pound)
Rinse under cold water until the water runs clear, roughly a minute
You can try other vegetables as substitutes or additions, including sweet potatoes, butternut squash, mushrooms, celery, or whatever you have on hand.
Heat dutch oven over medium heat with olive oil, until it shimmers
Sauté carrots and onion until softened (maybe 5 minutes)
Add garlic, curry powder, cumin, thyme, and salt. Cook until fragrant (about a minute)
Stir in lentils, tomato sauce, and broth
Bring to a simmer and cover
Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
Optionally, stir in (up to) 5 cups of spinach before serving.
Last night, Beta spent half an hour out on the deck. She was wearing the wool cape I got her last Christmas. She had her new noise-cancelling headphones that block so many of the sounds that bother her. She used the new family telescope to check out the Pleiades.
I am shocked, shocked I tell you! that my children actually enjoyed this recipe. I’m not sure why, perhaps they have given up all hope of enjoying a decent meal from my kitchen and now sullenly submit to my demands that they eat the goddamn food that I paid for and worked hard to put in front of them and it’s not like you do any chores around… Ahem. I got a little off track here.
Whatever the reason, they ate this one on my first attempt.
These are basically middle-eastern meatballs. You can cut in other things with the meat, serve them in a variety of ways, whatever floats your boat. (I rather enjoyed wrapping them in some naan with rice.) It’s a meatball. It’s the spices that make it.
The oven instructions are below. We haven’t grilled them yet, but they should do great, just use a little grill-sense. It’s a reasonably easy and fast recipe, ~20 minutes to prep and ~20 minutes to cook.
The recipe plus rice and other sides makes enough for 6-8 people.
2 pounds of ground beef – don’t get a lean mix! 80-85% seems good
mix in other ground meats as your fancy takes you, but you need some fats – don’t go too lean
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, or 1/4 cup dried
1/2 small onion, diced fine
1 red bell pepper, diced fine
Garlic, 3-4 minced cloves
Paprika, 1 tsp
Salt, 1 tsp
Cumin, 1/2 tsp
Pepper, 1/2 tsp
If you plan on skewering the meat, and you’re using bamboo or wood skewers, soak them in water for ~30 mins.
Preheat oven too 350°
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl (don’t overmix)
Form the mix into oblong patties, about kielbasa-thick
If you’re skewering, shove in the skewers now or form the patties around the skewers
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or grill for ~20 minutes, flipping at least once
For the last couple of minutes turn on the broiler to brown the meat
Usual disclaimer with ground meat dishes: make sure the internal temp is at least 160° before serving.
Serve with some traditional middle-eastern sides, like:
The original recipe was pretty strict about amounts, but we’ve found that this recipe is pretty tolerant of variation.
4 cups very coarsely chopped green cabbage (from about ¼ medium head)
Substitute 1 bag of dry slaw, 2 if you’re really feeling it
2 x 7-ounce packages instant udon noodles
discard any flavor packets, if they’re included
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Ground pork, between a 1/2 and 1 pound
Substitute a similar amount of shiitake mushrooms to make this a vegetarian dish
Scallions, around a half-dozen
Chop the white parts
thinly slice the dark green parts and set aside for later
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
⅓ cup mirin
⅓ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving
Put six cups of water on to boil while you work on step 2
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add cabbage and cook, tossing often, until edges are browned, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, tossing often, until thickest parts of cabbage leaves are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Remove from heat and set skillet aside.
While the cabbage is finishing on low heat:
Place udon in a large heatproof bowl (or pot if you don’t have one) and cover with 6 cups boiling water. Let sit 1 minute, stirring to break up noodles, then drain in a colander.
Transfer noodles back to bowl and toss with sesame oil.
Transfer cabbage to bowl with noodles. Wipe out skillet.
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in same skillet over medium-high and add pork, breaking up and spreading across surface of pan with a spatula or tongs.
Cook pork, undisturbed, until underside is brown, about 3 minutes. The pork will never brown if you’re fussing with it the whole time, so when we say “undisturbed,” that means keep your paws off it and let the heat of the pan and the pork do their thing.
When pork is browned, break up meat into small bits. Cook, tossing, just until there’s no more pink, about 1 minute.
Add chopped scallions (the pale parts), ginger, and red pepper. Continue to cook, tossing often, until scallions are softened and bottom of skillet has started to brown, about 1 minute.
Add udon mixture, mirin, and soy sauce and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are coated in sauce (be sure to scrape bottom of skillet to dissolve any browned bits), about 45 seconds.
Remove skillet from heat and fold in 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and dark-green parts of scallions. Top with more sesame seeds before serving.
After the first full week of quarantine, some observations.
The public has gone completely crazy.
By last weekend people had purchased all available stocks of toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, and ibuprofen. Store shelves were completely bare across the nation.There was no real shortage. Panic buying and speculation rules the day. Stores have mercifully instituted per-person maximum purchases to ensure availability for the unlucky or slow-to-act, so paper products are starting to trickle back onto the shelves.
Today the shortages are pasta, rice, french fries, and pepperoni. We couldn’t find any presliced pepperoni in Market Basket.
The veggie aisle continues to be well-stocked, except bananas. (but that’s not completely out of the ordinary.)
Unemployment claims are rising precipitously. Experts are warning that we could reach 20% unemployment this year.
Street traffic has ticked up a bit. Presumably people are starting to venture out, but not soon enough to save local small businesses.
Restaurants are still closing, but takeout pizza joints are booming.
We decided to relax and order pizza from Tremezzo’s Pizza last night. Megh called in an order at 4:40 pm. It took nearly an hour for pickup.
Starbucks, as one of the last remaining food service businesses open, is at least as busy as before. It’s limited to drive-thru and pre-order service (nobody allowed inside) and the line of cars just about reaches the main road.
The kids actually wanted to go out for a drive.
Last night we went across the street with our pizza and salad for a very fun dinner with Debbie and Tom, followed by a round of cribbage.
When we got back home around 8 pm the kids asked us to go out for a drive.
They haven’t been in a car for over a week. They’ve been outside, but there’s nowhere to go so none of us have been further than the grocery store. Their friends can’t come out. It’s weird to go so long without going anywhere, I think it’s comforting to do something familiar like sit in the car.
We swung by McDonald’s for a treat and just… drove around, the four of us. We went out to North Reading, swung through Reading, and came home. It’s weird, but I have to admit that it was relaxing to drive.
As SARS-CoV-2 entered the United States a few weeks ago, we collectively looked at the ongoing experiences of China and Italy and jokingly compared it to Captain Trips. Meghan and I studied the history of the Spanish Flu looking for parallels and worst-case scenarios.
The lessons learned from 1918 are being applied by health officials right now, in an effort to avoid a healthcare-system-crushing pandemic. We can’t avoid contracting the virus, that is clear, but perhaps we can prevent everyone from catching it all at once.
In the middle of last week schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts started closing as a preemptive measure. Many businesses did as well, including my own. A few did not until they were ordered to. This all mirrors the experiences (and failures) in other countries that were hit by the virus first.
As I write this, the governor has ordered all schools closed for at least three weeks. Large gatherings are prohibited, originally capped at 250 people and now capped at 25.
So basically we could go out if we really wanted to, but there’s no where to go right now.
Grocery stores are still allowed to be open, so people can buy things eat, but the doomsday preppers have effectively cleaned the shelves. Stores have struggled to keep essentials in stock, including (oddly) paper products like toilet paper, kleenex, and paper towels, as well as the true essentials that never spoil, like bread, milk, and eggs. Meghan witnessed someone buying five gallons of milk on Saturday. It’s like snow is coming.
Some businesses are instituting, or are relying on, work-from-home policies; unfortunately others, especially service-oriented jobs, are sending people home without pay.
I’m fortunate that I can work from home. We’ve cleaned out the office so I can get real work done, and made a spot for Butter to curl up. Meghan’s situation is a little murky, but so far as we can tell she will continue to be paid for the duration.
Baba has been asking for advice on what social events to attend. (answer: zero.) My own parents have continued to live like nothing has changed, though they’re a bit less social than Baba. All three grand-parental-units are in multiple high-risk groups. Connecticut has been less affected by the outbreak so far. I’ve got my fingers crossed that they’ll come through without contracting it.
I got a fish tank a year or so ago. It’s one of those Back to the Roots garden tanks that support a betta and three plant buckets. We had an alge problem, so we added a snail. He gets around a lot, so we call him the SpeedSnail.
(The fish is Fish Stick. It’s what was for dinner the night we brought him home.)
Yesterday, I noticed that the tank walls were getting a little brown. I decided today was the day to clear the counters and do some maintenance on the tank. The first part of that maintenance is to take out the plant pots.
So, I take out the middle pot. The roots are a little long, but not bad. Take out the far left pot. That one is ew and I may need to invest in new growth rocks. Then comes the one with the spider plant in it. This was an experimental plant. I look in the pot and notice one of the rocks looks strangely smooth. And round.
We collect shells. I have several snail shells from various beaches and our yard. So the obvious first thought is, “who put one of the shells in there?”
Then I look at the tank, and all the alge. I look at the tiger-striped shell in my pot. And SpeedSnail took a quick trip back into the tank.
He must have climbed up the feeding tube, gotten across the rocks, and discovered there was no water up there. He sealed himself up, and waited for the water to come back.
I watched him for a while before I left to meet Quinn for lunch, and spotted him sneaking a peak from inside his shell. When I got back to the house, he was busy hoovering up alge as fast as he could.
So, the snail had an adventure. The tank will get nice and clean again. FishStick can make aggressive moves against a tank-mate that can’t care less about what he’s doing.