I can’t remember the last time I missed the sight of brown dirt in the winter. It’s been over a month since a few major storms covered my part of the Northeast with snow, immediately becoming frozen in place. We literally have boulder-sized piles on the street made of solid ice and a thick layer of white on the ground you can walk on without making a dent.
All this icy whiteness is making me think about what spring will look like – one season I haven’t seen here in New Jersey yet – and what plants I’ll plant as soon as it thaws.
I always try to grow my favorite perennial herb plants like thyme, lavender and rosemary. Depending on what kind of winter blast Mother Nature sends, they can survive a few seasons, the lavender plants spreading out with fragrant flowers all summer.
Why did I start out writing about dirt? It must be a sign of deprivation. Lentils taste nothing like earth or dirt to me, but their humbleness never fails to make a comforting, simple meal especially suited for eating while things go Arctic outside.
French-style Le Puy lentils, tiny and beautifully slate green-colored, are my favorite. They hold their shape even after to cooking to tenderness. A pot of these lentils can feed a few people for a few days, tasting even better leftover with a squeeze of lemon and some wilted greens.
This is not quite a soup as most of the cooking water is absorbed, leaving just a bit of tasty, seasoned broth when the lentils are fully cooked. Add a cup or more water - along with extra salt - if you want to make soup.
2 cups French green lentils
2 carrots, peeled
2 stalks celery
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
Extra virgin olive oil
Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Put the lentils in a heavy pot with a capacity of at least 4 quarts.
- Quarter the carrots lengthwise, then slice each quarter in half lengthwise to form matchstick shapes; turn horizontally then dice into small cubes. Repeat with the celery.
- Add carrots, celery, shallot and bay leaf to the pot along with 2 teaspoons salt and 6 cups water.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. They will have absorbed most, but not all the liquid.
- Taste the lentils and season with more salt - they'll probably need a bit more. Pour in 2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil and stir in parsley.