I take my own screw-ups far too seriously. When I’m wrong or in the wrong, the inner marshmallow plumes: I’m stripped of indifference, I apologize profusely, I want to right everything at once and mellow tempers and for the remainder of the day I dwell on the error even if it was minute & forgotten by the other party in five seconds. I suppose, then, that writing is partway so appealing because of the delete button. Retry. The writing won’t hold a grudge. This lentil recipe, too. Forgiveness between cook & cuisine is valuable like forgiveness between humans.
It’s raining, summer-like. Banks of tumultuous inky stormclouds dump their loads onto the looping asphalt, flooding the drive, smudging the barrier of pond and shrub. We in Florida have desperately needed it – summer is being too coy, offering a delicate bouquet of sprinkles here and there that cease before a spelling bee competitor can fully pronounce “drought” and before sidewalk wanderers feel the drops grazing their cheeks. I never enjoyed the indifferent moods of weather. I want the polar points: blaring rays that bite through my pores or the clamor of battling gods in the heavens (or, as I used to believe, the echo of Mario’s shoes as he tramps in some atmospheric Super Mario 64 painting). Swimming at dusk or candles and coffee at 3pm. With gray skies and weak drizzles, migraines swell & a general drowsiness slackens my posture and focus. Not a fan. So I always hope summer makes up its mind.
I returned from vacation a few days ago & resettling into everyday life, the cares and wrinkles characterizing the ordinary tasks I must perform, is difficult. Dishes await cleaning, bills await paying, work shifts filling, meals cooked and eaten and stowed. The Saturday on which I made this dish, I camped at the dinner table with my laptop and in phases floated to the kitchen to cut this or check that or dig my hands into the dish of soft vegetables to toss the components together. This meal came together in stages so simple to follow the minutes didn’t feel frantic and everything just kind of worked. I like meals of this sort. Unfussy. Seasonal. Flavorful. And, of course, those which yield enough for 3-4 days. Batch cooking helps ease the what the **** should I have for dinner anxiety and allows me to continue working or playing or running about with minimal interruption. The lentils and veggies are quite merciful, too: add other seasonal herbs, other summery vegetables (sweet peppers and eggplant would work great!), replace the black beans with chickpeas or cannellinis. I stuffed the lentils and some classic hummus into a wheat pita – divine. Stirred into a big pot of noodles? Go for it. And if you mess up somehow, keep this in mind: charred corn adds a lovely smoke quality, and fingers are perfect for quick lemon-seed removal should one squeeze through your sieve. Small hints.
lemon basil lentils with black beans + roasted corn and zucchini
For the lentils:
- 1 cup lentils, rinsed
- 3 cups water or broth
- Juice + zest of one lemon
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- Salt + pepper to taste
- 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
For the vegetables:
- 3 large zucchini, diced
- kernels of 2-3 corn cobs, or 1 bag frozen
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- salt + pepper to taste
To make the lentils:
- Black beans can be prepared throughout the cooking process. Just pour into a small saucepan and set on the lowest heat your stovetop allows to simply warm them up.
- Combine lentils and water in a medium saucepan; simmer over medium heat with the lid tilted for 20-25 minutes until desired tenderness is reached.
- While lentils are cooking, squeeze juice from & zest your lemon. Chop basil; set aside.
- When lentils finish, drain any excess water through a sieve and pour into a large storage bowl. Add lemon juice + zest, basil, salt and pepper; toss to combine. Taste and adjust accordingly.
To make the vegetables:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- If using frozen corn: rinse kernels under cold water to refresh & pat dry with paper towels. If using fresh corn: peel husk & remove silk pieces from the cob. Using a sharp knife, scrape kernels carefully. Place corn of choice in a large mixing bowl.
- Dice zucchini into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the bowl with the corn. Add olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper. Toss together thoroughly to combine and spread onto two large baking sheets.*
- Roast vegetables for 15-20 minutes or until a light toasty brown. Remove from oven and add to lentils and beans, tossing to combine.
- Serve with freshly-grated parmesan and additional fresh basil leaves, if desired.
*Note: Depending on the size of your baking sheet & your zucchini, one might suffice. It did for me.