Sunday, August 24, 2008


We have a long standing joke at our place: "when funds get low in the bank, it's all right—we'll just eat rice and lentils!"

The comical part of this is that we've never made good on that threat to ourselves. We usually end up eating pasta instead.

Rewind to an evening eating out at Sultan's Market on North Avenue (just west of Damen). We ordered our usual falafel pitas, spicy and complete with Jerusalem salad and hummus. On this night of nights, however, we branched out and got (gasp!) a side dish: rice and lentils. It was delicious.

So I finally made this at home, and am kicking myself for not attempting this alchemy sooner.

You'll need:
2 cups cooked lentils, the brown or green kind. I usually cook an entire pound and freeze in 2-cup portions.

2 cups of dry white long grain rice, cooked according to package directions,
adding 1 vegetarian or no-MSG bouillon cube (I used beef flavored) and 1 tsp cumin.

2-3 sweet onions, sliced into rings and cooked in a skillet until brown and carmelized in plenty of olive oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and black pepper. This part might take 20+ minutes.

good, thick Greek yogurt.

When all of the above are ready to eat, assemble this way:
Mix together the rice and lentils. Stir in half the fried onions. Spoon into bowls, and top with remaining fried onions and yogurt.

Yes, it really is that easy.

Some variations: bulgar can be used instead of rice, and sour cream instead of yogurt. You could also add garlic, curry powder, or whatever else feels right.

Monday, August 18, 2008



Last night we met up with our downstairs neighbors for an outdoor potluck! We got the grill going and enjoyed corn on the cob, sweet potatoes and portabellas. R. made a salad of greens, pears, and a homemade vinaigrette that was perfectly complemented by some raw sheep's milk blue cheese...and, an amazing chocolate cake topped with raspberries (which, by the way, was vegan and lovely). All in all, it was a good night.

I will admit, though, that cooking corn on the cob on our little grill was tough; it took forever!! Next time I might boil it first, then finish on the grill...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tofu and Ground Pork in a Black Bean Sauce

A couple weeks ago, my friend A. took us to a family friend's restaurant in Chinatown. We've been living a few blocks from it for years, but never found ourselves inside. Perhaps it was the weather beaten exterior, or lack of signage displaying the restaurant's name. Most likely it's because we don't know any Chinese and were totally intimidated. It's called Gourmet Food, and as we found out it's the neighborhood's best kept secret. The food we had was cheap, filling, like nothing you'd get in a typical Chinese-American restaurant...and it was GOOD.

I have not tried to recreate the dish I ate there (after all, it's within walking distance and the frugal foodie's best friend—why bother?) but it did get me thinking about giving Chinese food another shot in my kitchen.

I loosely followed a recipe for Ma-Po Tofu, but seeing as there were so many substitutes it really became something else entirely. It may not be pretty, but was certainly satisfying!

1 block tofu
1/2 lb ground pork
3 T Chinese black bean sauce (with garlic)
1 T soy sauce
1 T rice wine
1 tsp grated ginger
2 T finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp raw sugar (or brown)
1/4 c stock (veggie or chicken will do)
salt & pepper
1 T cornstarch dissolved in 2 T hot water

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a work, add ginger and onion. Cook for 30 seconds.

To this, add ground pork, black bean sauce, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar. Cook 1-2 minutes.

Add tofu and stock, simmer 15 minutes on low heat. After this time, add the dissolved cornstarch and heat a minute or two. It will thicken. Season with salt & pepper and serve with white rice.