Monday, May 23, 2011

It could definitely be worse.

Before we talk food, let's talk weather.  More exactly, let's talk what we can do when we feel helpless in the face of tornadoes and floods and earthquakes and tsunamis and...well, you get it. 
  • Donate to a disaster relief charity. makes this easy, and you can donate                          anonymously.
  • Host a fund-raising activity: a walk or run, a field day, a "pay what you'd donate" dinner at                      someone's home, a bake sale.  Then see #1.
  • Donate time at a food bank or animal shelter.  It may not directly affect the disaster areas, but it         still helps people in need.
  •  If you can, fly to the area in need and pitch in.  I'm guessing you could contact the American Red Cross and ask about volunteer options.
  •  Find out about the soup kitchens, food banks, and animal shelters in the affected areas, and send a shipment of food, blankets, chew toys, etc.
Get creative.  Any little thing can help in big ways.

As you might imagine, after this morning's news about Joplin, MO, I don't really have the heart to whine about how it's grey and cool here for the fourth week in a row.  It does stink, but really, I'd have to be rating high on the suckitude meter to go there right now.  So instead, I cook. 

The chopping, the smells, the sizzles all help with the blues.  We had friends over for dinner this weekend, and I spatchcocked a chicken (which, I'm serious, is maybe the coolest cooking term EVER) for the first time, rubbed it up with garlic and lemon a la Nigel Slater (am currently addicted to his cookbooks and writing), and grilled the bird until the skin was crispy and the meat was tender.  I did not, of course, eat all of the skin myself.  Ahem.  Or at least not every little bit of it.

I served it up with a Jerusalem Artichoke and Farro Risotto from Janet Fletcher's book Eating Local, and we were very happy indeed.  The bottle of Pinot Grigio helped with that, of course...

Tonight, I'm back to playing with lentils.  I love legumes (wouldn't that make a great t-shirt?) and use them often, but get stuck in the black bean-cannellini rotation.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se, but there are so many other options out there that it seems a shame not to explore every so often.  Also this weekend, we went to one of our local farmers' markets and picked up a package of stew lamb; my head went straight to a lamb and lentil stew.  At first I was thinking Italian overtones (because that's pretty much what I always think of first) and then I decided to do some searching and see what else was out there.  I read quite a few Indian-inspired recipes, and from those cobbled together this one.  The pound of stew lamb will feed six, but you can also up the veggies and lentils and leave the lamb out entirely without the dish suffering.

Indian-Spiced Lamb and Lentil Stew
serves 6
1 lb lamb stew meat, cut into small chunks (can omit, just up the lentils and veg)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced (I used 2 small leeks, since we had some in the fridge)
2 med. to large carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks celery, diced
2 in. knob of ginger, peeled and minced or grated
1 tbsp curry powder (or more to taste)
1/2 tbsp garam masala (or more to taste)
1- 3" cinnamon stick
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4-1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
15 oz. can diced, no salt tomatoes (if yours aren't no salt, just wait to add all of the salt you think you might want)
1 cup of lentils
6 cups of liquid (I used a mix of water and chicken broth)
10 oz frozen, chopped spinach (no need to thaw)
1/4 cup golden raisins
basmati rice to serve, optional

1.  In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat.  When shimmering, add lamb.  Cook until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove lamb from pot.

2.  Add 2 tbsp oil, and minced garlic through cayenne pepper (remember to go easy on the salt at this point).  Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.  Return lamb to pan, and stir in lentils and tomatoes.  Add 6 cups of liquid and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with your spoon to get up the bits that have stuck.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until lamb and lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. 

3.  Stir in spinach and raisins; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 more minutes.  Serve hot over rice, if desired.


Missie said...

Now does "spatchcock" specifically mean to cut the bird like that, then grill, or can it be cooked any way? I have a recipe that describes that cut as "butterflying" the chicken, but it gets roasted, not grilled. I want to know if I can start substituting "spatchcock", as it is, as you ointed out, a seriously cool word. :)

Christine said...

Spatchcocking is just the cutting. You can cook it however you want. :)

Jaclyn said...

I just made a vegetarian version and replaced the lamb with cauliflower. My husband and I both thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks for the recipe!

Christine said...

Hi Jaclyn--I'm so glad you liked it! I'll try it with the cauliflower next time--I love that stuff!