I have been devouring Tamar Adler‘s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace before bed, which might explain why I have been waking up famished. I really can’t recommend it enough. People often compare Adler to M.F.K. Fisher- patron saint of food writers- although I can’t attest to that because I am afraid I will knock myself- or Half-moon- out if I fall asleep reading the tome that is my copy of The Art of Eating in bed.
I love that Adler makes me feel guilty for not pickling my kale stems. I love that she has the sensibility of a Depression-era housewife, often using the same pot of water four or five times for different purposes. I love that she writes things like this:
“I recommend buying a bunch of parsley whenever you can. Then, once you have it, act as children do when handed hammers and suddenly everything needs pounding.”
I love that she sounds like an eighty-year-old woman tucked into a Tuscan hillside but is really a thirty-something woman residing in a small apartment in Brooklyn (of course.) Most of all I love that she seems to believe that all of the world’s problems can be solved with stale bread and good olive oil.
She keeps all of her food in glass jars and cooks all of her vegetables on Sunday. She turns her lemon peels into citrus syrup to mix with cold seltzer to make homemade soda. She pickles her kale stems. Adler gives advice so simple I want to slap my head and say Of course! Like how you should taste your food at every stage of the cooking process and that it should always taste good (it doesn’t taste good? add salt!) Reading this book has made me think twice about a trip to the store, instead improvising with what I already have. And it’s made me wonder why I don’t eat more meals like sauteed greens on toast. With parmesan cheese. And olive oil (of course.)
Adler also addresses a question I have often wondered when reading cookbooks and food blogs: When is a recipe borrowed? When is it “adapted?” And when is it your own? According to Adler, there are no original recipes, which reminds me of one of my father’s favorite sayings, “The last person to to have an original idea invented the wheel.” So here is a recipe. I made it up. Or I adapted it from one I read on Smitten Kitchen, another New Yorker doing incredible things in a tiny kitchen.
This recipe utilizes the vegetarian workhorse, lentils. It also has a potato and a dressing made with lemon (or vinegar) and cilantro (or parsley.) Serve it with good bread and a glass of red wine. It’s comforting and wholesome. I think Tamar Adler would like it.
Warm Lentil and Potato Salad with Capers
1/2 cup French green lentils
1 Yukon Gold potato, cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 or 3 kale leaves, washed, dried and chopped into thin ribbons
1 garlic clove, smashed and made into a paste with a little salt
1 small chunk of onion, sliced into thin pieces
lemon juice and/or red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
a couple of tablespoons of capers (I don’t rinse them)
a bunch of cilantro + stems (or parsley), chopped
feta cheese, optional
Cook the lentils in a small saucepan on the stove until they are tender and water is absorbed (keep warm.) At the same time, cook the potato in a separate pot- cover the potato with water and cook until you can easily poke a knife into it (I have a bad habit of undercooking potatoes.) Keep the potato warm, too (I just let it sit in the pot of warm water and damn I just realized I should be telling you somehow you can use the potato water for another meal.) Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place the lemon juice (or vinegar) and sliced onions in a shallow salad bowl and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk in the garlic paste, mustard and olive oil (taste it!). Add the capers and kale (taste it!) Next add the cooked lentils, cubed potato and chopped herbs (and crumbled feta cheese too, if you are using it.) Toss this all together and taste it! Adjust the seasonings, if you wish, adding salt or black pepper. (Or more lemon, capers or herbs- remember, it should taste good.)
According to Adler, M.F.K. Fisher said you don’t always have to balance each meal, just the day. Apparently Fisher used to frequent a beer hall where she would make a meal of cheese, onions, caraway seeds and crusty bread. I am so happy I found these women.