wintry feast

by isaac black

This Sunday was the third Grub Club. I wanted to do kind of a fall/winter meal, one with root vegetables and lentils and herbs and things. I’m not sure how wintry it was, but it turned out pretty well. I cooked for 12, and eerily had just the right amount of everything. The recipes follow:

Bourbon fried purple potatoes:

4 or 5 purple potatoes, sliced with a mandolin

1/2 c. or so walnut oil

salt

roughly chopped parsley

1/2 c. – 3/4 c. bourbon

Wash and slice potatoes while heating up cast iron skillet with 1 tsp or so of oil on medium high heat (but don’t scorch the oil). Put a layer of potatoes in the oil and turn over when they start to get brown and crispy. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pour in a splash of bourbon (I was being conservative since I was near the end of my bottle). Stir potatoes, remove from heat, and stir in parsley. I think these are best when they’re fresh off the stove, ie before they sit out and get soggy, so I was serving people right off the stove, doing multiple batches until I used up all my potatoes.

Green tea red lentils:

4 c. red lentils

6 cloves garlic

1 1/2 tbsp loose green tea

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 1/2 c. cashew cream

salt

Wash lentils in pot and add 4 cups water (I was hoping to keep a little of the texture and not have the lentils turn to mush, but red lentils like to turn to mush. My thought was to use less water and steam for longer, which worked with a smaller batch, but this turned to mush. It looked like flavorless gruel, but ended up being flavorful gruel.) Add garlic cloves, turmeric, tea, and a pinch of salt and boil. You’re going to want to use some good tea. I got some loose gunpowder tea from an Asian market, and it was perfect. The tea flavor was mild, and it was basically all leaves and no stems. When the water boils down just below the level of the top of the lentils (think cooking rice), turn the heat to low and steam for 20 minutes (don’t remove that lid!). To make cashew cream: I soaked about 1/3 lb. of roasted unsalted cashews in a bowl with water about 1/2 inch over the nuts. After soaking for an hour, blend them all together. Stir that into the lentils. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper–I would start with about 1/2 tsp of salt or so and salt to taste. I used about 15 grinds of pepper, just enough to add a hint of pepper but not enough to make it spicy.

Stuffed red bell pepper:

12 red bell peppers

6 medium carrots

8 medium parsnips

2 inches fresh minced ginger

6 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 tsp cinnamon

salt

2 tbsp (or so) olive oil

Peel and slice carrots and parsnips into sticks (I filled my 4 quart saucepan to the brim with parsnips and carrots and had just a little left over). Boil parsnips with a pinch of salt for five minutes or so, then add carrots. While those are boiling, sautee the ginger and garlic in the oil. When the carrots are just tender (and the parsnips are soft; don’t want tough, rooty parsnips), drain them and stir fry in the oil, turning up the heat to medium high. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and salt to taste. I wanted just a hint of cinnamon flavor, just enough to bring out the sweetness in the vegetables. Slice the tops off the bell peppers, and stuff with the vegetables. Place in pan covered in tin foil. I baked these at 300 for about 20 minutes, but I would have liked them softer. Maybe next time I would broil for about 10 minutes or so. I removed the top foil for the last bit and changed the oven to broil to get them a little charred on top.

Serve these over the lentils and garnish with cilantro. Seriously, I wouldn’t skip the cilantro.

The caramelized fennel recipe I stole from Plenty, which is a fantastic cookbook from London’s Ottolenghi restaurant. I don’t want to reprint it here because I don’t know how recipe law works.

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