Today, I did something that I don't normally do. List in hand, I went shopping at the Park Slope Food Coop. After dodging workers unloading U-boats of boxes of fresh produce while I shopped, I returned home. Then I started to cook this Ottolenghi recipe for Puy lentils with eggplant, tomatoes, and yogurt.
Normally, I will come home, unpack the groceries, and have no energy left to cook. I will then probably eat prepared food, like a sandwich from the Court Street Grocers, which the coop also stocks. Too tired and hungry to do anything more.
My walk each way to the coop takes about 25 minutes. It will usually take me at least 30 minutes to shop. If the check out line winds around the aisles like a big snake, with the last person holding a sign up saying "the line ends here," it could take another half hour. The walk home, another 30. No wonder I often wait a day until I cook something with my newly purchased produce!
Before this shop, my refrigerator was pretty bare. I had stocked it up before carpal tunnel surgery on June 5th. I was pretty savvy about buying things that could navigated with my non-dominant hand, the left. When not able to prepare something, my daughter-in-law kindly helped me out. She often came downstairs and cut an orange up into edible sections for me. Having to hold my right hand upright above my heart, using a knife was an impossible act. I fancied that I looked a bit like Napoleon with one arm up inside his waistcoat.
In some of the down time of the week used for healing after the surgery, I perused my cookbooks. During that time, I chose to make this recipe for Puy lentils with eggplant, tomatoes, and yogurt, from Simple.
Most of Ottolenghi's recipes are daunting and take time, even the ones in his simplest cookbook, Simple. When I attended one of the Brooklyn by the Book talks in which Ottolenghi promoted Simple, he outright admitted this to his foodie fans in the audience.
But I must say that this one lives up to the title of the book. So if you are a lover of eggplant as I am, and are looking for a dish with a healthy protein like lentils, this recipe for Puy lentils with eggplant, tomatoes and yogurt, is for you, too. Try it, and enjoy!Jump to Recipe
This, that, and the other...
A few months ago, a dear old friend of mine, sent me a bunch of letters. They were ones that I had written to him in the years after college. Tit for tat, so to speak. For I had sent him a few of his that I had kept in a folder in my file drawer.
I will be 70 in September. One thing we senior citizens do, is to go through things collected over a lifetime. We either organize them or get rid of them. The goal being more of the latter, a la Marie Kondo. So when I found his letters, I thought he might enjoy re-reading them and looking back a bit. I mailed them with a cover note explaining why I sent them.
I left the manilla envelope with the enclosed letters I had received, sitting on my desk for months. In a phone conversation, I admitted to my friend that I could just not bear to read then yet. It just felt too painful and raw to revisit who I had been.
The years after college were a struggle to find my way in life. I was determined, but it was not easy. My older self was worried about feeling shame over not completely becoming the person of my dreams. Probably an unrealistic expectation.
So the night before my carpal tunnel surgery, I finally opened the envelope and read the letters. I was pleasantly surprised. My younger self had an amazing spirit, energy to engage, worked hard, and experienced and enjoyed life whole heartedly.
Walking home from the coop with my groceries, I was thinking about these letters. I thought about how I should really embrace my younger me, and send her some love. And I did.
My original intention was really to read the letters. I would then shred them, in case something went south during my hand operation. I didn't want anyone finding the letters. Once I read them, this was no longer an issue.
I did easily survive the hand surgery, and the letters remain on the desk in the manilla envelope. I think they deserve at least a second reading.
Don't Look Back was a 1967 American documentary film by D.A. Pennebaker starring Bob Dylan. As the President of my college cinema club, I actually had the movie shown during my Freshman year at school. Dylan was popular, and the hall was filled with students trying to make sense of the enigmatic Dylan. Don't look back became a catch phrase because of the social impact of the movie.
At the almost age of 70, I find that I read a lot of memoirs, and biographies. My friends who are more interested in other kinds of books, often ask my why. I tell them that it is because I am interested in how other people have lived their lives. After all, there are so many paths we may take, and so few that most of us do take. I want to learn about the ones I have not taken, and see what they were like. As for my own life, in the case of these letters, it has been good to look back after all.
Puy lentils with eggplant, tomatoes, and yogurt
This can be made up to 3 days in advance, up to the point of the yogurt being added. Keep in the fridge until needed. Feeds 4 as a starter or side, and 2 as a main.
- 4 eggplants, pricked a few times with a knife (2lb 6 oz/1.1kg)
- 10 oz cherry tomatoes (300g)
- 3/4 cup Puy lentils (160 g (or 4-3/4 cups/350g ready-cooked lentils))
- 2 tbsp olive oil plus extra to serve
- 1-1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 3 tbsp oregano leaves
- salt and black pepper
- 6 tbsp Greek-style yogurt (100g)
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
Place eggplants on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour,turning them over halfway through, until the flesh is completely soft and slightly smoky. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out into a colander. Set aside in the sink or over a bowl, for 30 minutes, for any liquid to drain away. The skin can be discarded.
Place the cherry tomatoes on the same baking sheet and roast for 12 minutes, until slightly blackened, split, and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, if starting with uncooked lentils, fill a medium saucepan with plenty of water and place over high heat. Once boiling, add the lentils, decrease the heat to medium, and cook for 20 minutes, until soft but still retaining a bite. Drain, then set aside to dry out slightly. If starting with ready-cooked lentils, just tip them into a large bowl and add the eggplant flesh, tomatoes, oil, lemon juice, garlic, 2 tbsp of oregano, 3.4 tsp salt, and a good grind of pepper. Mix well, then spoon into a large shallow bowl. Top with the yogurt, swirling it through slightly so there are obvious streaks. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tbsp of oregano over the top, drizzle with a little oil, and serve.