3.29.2010

The deed is done

We’re on our way to Eli’s parents’ house for the Passover holiday, so I can’t stay long today. But I promised you dessert, one that involves the distractingly delicious combination of chocolate, hazelnuts, and sea salt. That’s not the kind of promise I take lightly. Since time is short, I’m going to give this one to you straight. As straight (straightly?) as I’m capable of giving anything, that is.



These little cakes are a dressed up version of a standard flourless chocolate cake that I’ve been baking for years. I based them on a simple premise: hazelnuts and chocolate together are uncommonly good. Some might even say that they are destined to be together. I’m not sure what it says about my character that it has taken me upwards of five years to grind up some hazelnuts and toss them into this batter, but it can’t be good. It certainly does nothing to boost my already questionable authority in the kitchen. But now that the deed is done, I’m doing my best to get past all that. It’s amazing what a bite of something wonderful from your very own oven can do for your confidence level.

Like most flourless chocolate cakes, this version is one of those melt, stir, and pour numbers, a convenient number to have around when you’ve also got three different kinds of macaroons and a batch of cherry almond chocolate chunkies on the docket. When it comes to holiday baking, I don’t mess around. I normally make this cake in an 8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, but this time, I decided to pour the batter into mini muffin pans, instead. I wanted something that could be eaten out of hand in a couple of bites, something large enough to satisfy, yet small enough to justify reaching, guilt free, for a second. I’ve spooned and forked my way through many a flourless chocolate cake, but flourless chocolate cake as finger food is a first for me. There’s something special about picking it up between finger and thumb, like you would a brownie or a creamy truffle, and biting into what tastes like a combination of both. If you have ever stuck a spoon into a jar of Nutella and brought it directly to your mouth – and if you haven’t, then I suggest you get on that immediately – then you already have a pretty good feel for the flavor of this cake. Only it’s richer. Darker. And with a salty finish that makes the whole thing pop. It’s a deed done right.



With that, I’d better be on my way. Whether or not you’re celebrating tonight, may this spring be a season of new and renewed life for us all. Happy Passover.

Mini Chocolate Hazelnut Cakes with Sea Salt
Adapted from Gourmet, November 1997

I have one very important thing to tell you before you begin: Do NOT over bake these cakes. Do not. Please. If you do, you won’t get that smooth, creamy interior that, in my opinion, is the hallmark of a truly fine flourless chocolate cake. Instead, you’ll end up with a consistency that is decidedly more brownie-like. While that’s not the worst thing in the world, if you wanted brownies, you would just make brownies, right? The key here is to remove the cakes from the oven as soon as a thin crust has formed over the tops. I’m going to tell you the exact same thing in the recipe in just a moment, but it’s so important, that it bears repeating.

4 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate (I use Scharffen Berger, 70%)
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter
¾ c. sugar
3 large eggs
½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ c. hazelnuts
Coarsely ground Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and generously butter a 24-cup mini muffin pan. (You can, as I mentioned, also bake this cake in an 8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. If you decide to go this route, you will want to butter the pan, line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, and butter the paper.)

Toast the hazelnuts in the oven for about 7-8 minutes, and rub them with a cloth dish towel to remove the loose skins. Once they have cooled, grind them in a food processor until medium-fine. (Mine were on the finer side.)

Chop the chocolate into small pieces, and melt it together with the butter in a double boiler (or heat-safe bowl) placed over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir until smooth, remove the mixture from the heat, and whisk in the sugar. Add the eggs and whisk well. Sprinkle the cocoa powder and the ground hazelnuts over the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter into the pans, and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt onto each one. Bake for approximately 12 minutes (25 minutes if you’re making a single, 8-inch cake), or until the top has formed a thin crust. If your oven runs hot, check them at 10. Cool in the pans for five minutes, and then remove the cakes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 24 mini cakes.

Note: These cakes freeze well, and I actually like their consistency even better once they have been frozen and thawed.

3.27.2010

Cruel and unusual punishment

Hello, friends. I had one heck of a nice Saturday, and I hope you did, too. My day included pajamas until noon; the New York Times Magazine; and an inaugural round of Pandemic, the newest German-style board game in the growing collection that belongs to my German-style-board-game-obsessed husband, who likes to comment on the “game dynamics” while we play, and say things like, “I imagine this game has good replayability,” and “Yes, that’s an actual word!” and, my favorite, “Ooooh, nice bits!” (referring to all of the little tokens and figures that come with the game). There was also a nap on the sofa; a slice of spinach cake for lunch; and a taste test of a new recipe for mini chocolate hazelnut cakes with sea salt that, just as I suspected, are even better after a spell in the freezer.

If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing that all you heard was “chocolate,” “hazelnut,” and “sea salt.” Those three little words, especially when they occur in the same sentence, have a way of wiping out all memory of whatever meaningless drivel may have come before them. A word like “spinach,” I imagine, is particularly susceptible to this kind of erasure. It doesn’t stand a chance. Dropping a bomb like mini chocolate hazelnut cakes with sea salt (whoops, I did it again!) and then blathering on about spinach might, in some countries, fall under the category of cruel and unusual punishment. But the thing is, I made a spinach cake this week that I would really like to tell you about, and since you have to eat your greens before dessert anyway, I hope you won’t mind. Stick with me on the spinach and then, I promise, you can have dessert.



This spinach cake comes from David Tanis’s book, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the words “spinach” and “cake” getting so cozy there on the page. Spinach pie, yes, but spinach cake? That seemed a little reckless. When I hear the word “cake,” I think flour and sugar and crust and crumb, but the thing is, it’s not that kind of cake. That’s what you need to remember. Tanis writes that his cake is “a cross between a custard and a frittata,” but I would go further than that. It’s far airier and more delicate than any frittata I’ve ever had and, while the milk and egg that pools at the bottom does indeed bake into a lovely pale-green custard, the top of the cake is so light, it’s almost mousse-like. When Eli tried it, his first response was, “It’s good. But it tastes like spinach.” Swap that “but” for an “and,” and we were on the same page. I know what he means: It would be easy to jazz up this recipe with, say, a few dashes of marjoram, or some extra cheese. It would probably be delicious. But sometimes the very best food is food that just plain old tastes like itself.

That may very well be the running theme of this cookbook: food that tastes like itself. Take Tanis's apple tart, for example. It’s the plainest darn apple tart I’ve ever seen. There’s no messing with cinnamon or vanilla or heavy cream. It’s just a good, flaky pastry dough, topped with thinly-sliced apples, and a sugar glaze. It’s perfect. Or his rhubarb kumquat compote, which boasts only the two fruits (well, one fruit, and one fruit-ish vegetable) that I’ve already mentioned, and a cup of sugar. I haven’t yet tried it, but it’s on my list for this spring. A lot of food out there these days looks as if it has been prepped for the runway, lipstick, false lashes, five-inch heels and all. David Tanis’s recipes, on the other hand, are bare-faced beauties. It’s my kind of food. That’s what I was thinking about this afternoon as I ate my slice of spinach cake.

There. Spinach blathering over. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Now, eat up, and I’ll be back with dessert in a day or two.

p.s. The Jewish holiday of Passover begins on Monday night. Some of you may have noticed that this spinach cake recipe just so happens to be kosher for Passover. That is, it’s bread and leaven-free. Here are some other recipes from the archives that can be made kosher for Passover:

Savory
Broccoli Salad
Herbed Goat Cheese Spread
Muhammara (minus the breadcrumbs)
Shakshuka (without the beans and rice; instead, try serving over quinoa, a Passover-friendly “grain,” according to most)
Simplest Tomato Soup

Sweet
Cherry Almond Chocolate Chunkies
Chocolate-Covered Coconut Macaroons
Salted Chocolate Almond Toffee

Spinach Cake
Adapted from David Tanis’s A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes

Spinach and leeks both tend to harbor a little extra dirt, so be sure to wash them thoroughly. You don’t want any grit in your cake. David suggests serving this cake at room temperature. I was certain that I would prefer it warm, but he was right. Room temperature is better. Today, I enjoyed it chilled, right out of the refrigerator. Everything about this cake – the flavor, the texture, the consistency – improves by the second day. In the future, I will make it the day before I plan to serve it.

About 2 pounds of spinach, stemmed, washed, and more or less dried
2 medium leeks
2 T. butter
Freshly ground salt and black pepper
Several dashes – about ¼ tsp., I’d guess – of nutmeg (David’s recipe calls for grating it fresh, but the ground, jarred stuff will work in a pinch.)
2 c. whole milk
6 large eggs
A generous pinch of cayenne
About 2 T. of freshly grated Parmesan

Over a medium flame, melt the butter in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot (I used my enameled cast-iron pot). Add the leeks, a few grinds of salt and pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are tender but still green, about five minutes. Sprinkle the nutmeg over top, add a layer of spinach, and season with a few grinds of salt. Next, add another layer of spinach, a few more grinds of salt, and repeat until all of the spinach is in the pot. (If your pot isn’t large enough, you’ll have to steam the spinach in two batches.) Turn up the heat slightly, cover the pot, and let the spinach steam over the leeks. Lift the lid to stir once or twice so that you get an even steam. You want the spinach to be just barely wilted, so the steaming should take no longer than two minutes. Turn the leeks and steamed spinach out onto a cutting board and let it cool. Save any cooking juices that are left in the pot.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and butter a deep, 10-inch pie dish. When the spinach-leek mixture is cool, taste it and adjust the seasoning, as necessary. Remember that you are about to blend it with a lot of unseasoned eggs and milk, so if the spinach and leeks taste a little over-seasoned, that’s actually okay.

In a blender, puree the vegetables with the milk and eggs in two batches. Add a few final grinds of salt and pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Add any remaining cooking juices from the pot to one of the batches before you puree.

The batter will be thin and soupy. Pour it into the buttered pie dish, and grate about two tablespoons of Parmesan over the top. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is lightly browned. The cake will puff up and dome slightly in the oven and then collapse back onto itself as it cools. Mine cracked a little bit around one of the edges, but the cake in the cookbook photograph cracked even more, so I’m assuming that it’s supposed to be that way.

Serve at room temperature, or chilled.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Note: My pie dish was not quite deep enough to contain all of the batter, so I poured the rest of it into a ramekin and made one small spinach cake. It worked beautifully, and made for a very nice presentation. If you’re making individual ramekin cakes, bake for only about 25 minutes.

3.26.2010

Around town







Hi, all. How was your week? I've been facing down some work deadlines here and I'm really looking forward to slowing down a little this weekend.

These shots are from some places around town. That first one is at Rami's in Brookline, where I like to order a shwarma with the works. Next are a couple of photographs taken at Algiers in Cambridge. They make a nice mujaddara, served over yogurt, which is what you see here. I was reading John McPhee's Coming into the Country that day. I recommend it. I took the last two photographs at Cafe Pamplona in Cambridge. I drank my first coffee - a latte, actually - in three years. It was good. But then I got that gross leather tongue feeling, which is one of the reasons that I generally don't touch the stuff. How do you coffee lovers out there deal with the dreaded leather tongue?

Enjoy the weekend, friends. I'll be back soon with a recipe.

3.19.2010

Tastes like spring

Spring officially starts tomorrow and, in a move that some might call an affront to the so-called Season of Love, I’m ringing it in with a mouthful of garlic breath. I’m as excited as the next person for asparagus, artichokes, and morels to arrive. (You know how I feel about morels.) But I’m content to start small, small and fragrant, with a bouquet of fresh spring herbs.



It’s early still for fresh herbs in these parts, I know, though I’m guessing that the first of the season’s chives are already pushing their way up. I’ve chastised Eli more than once for giving in to the temptation of strawberries before they’re due, but when it comes to herbs, I’m the guilty one. I couldn’t wait. Not with this sun and these temperatures in the mid-60s and crocuses busting out all over. Soon enough, I’ll be snipping fresh herbs from my own window box. For now, I’m grateful for my favorite market and this herbed goat cheese recipe for a whiff of what’s to come. And speaking of whiffs, when I said garlic breath, I meant it. This recipe boasts two cloves of raw garlic (three, if they’re puny), finely chopped and folded into a mound of goat cheese and yogurt. If you’ve never tasted fiery garlic against a tangy goat cheese, you’re in for a treat. Heck, even if you have tasted it, you’re in for a treat. Not only does this flavor combination never get old but, I swear, it tastes new every time. Topped with a confetti of herbs and a pour of olive oil, this cheese spread tastes like spring. Even when spring has not quite sprung.

Happy weekend, friends, and happy spring!



Herbed Goat Cheese Spread
From Amy’s kitchen (so you know it has to be good)

Before you get started, a word of caution about the mixing and mashing: In my experience with this recipe, it is best when stirred as little as possible. If you mix too thoroughly, the spread takes on a smoother, creamier consistency. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I personally enjoy a sturdier end result, one that spreads more like cream cheese than dip.

12 oz. soft goat cheese
8 oz. (1 cup) goat milk yogurt (I use the Redwood Hill Farm brand, available at Whole Foods. If you can’t find goat milk yogurt in your area, or prefer not to shell out for it, you can use plain yogurt instead. )
2 Tbs. (or a little more, if you’re feeling herby) of chopped fresh herbs. You can use any combination of tarragon, thyme, chives, and parsley.
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Freshly ground salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

In a medium-sized bowl, mash the goat cheese with a fork, just enough to break it up a little. Add the yogurt, and give the mixture a few gentle stirs. Set aside about 1 teaspoon of the mixed herbs for garnish (no need to measure; I just eye it), and add the rest of the herbs, together with the garlic, salt, and pepper, to the yogurt and cheese. Stir until just incorporated. I like to use a rubber spatula for this stage, again, for the sake of maintaining the consistency. Right before serving, combine the olive oil and reserved herbs and drizzle over the spread.

The spread can be made one or two days in advance and stored in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to serve. If you decide to go this route, it’s best to prepare the spread with just the cheese, yogurt, garlic, and salt and pepper. Add the herbs on the day you plan to serve it.

Makes about 2 cups.

3.16.2010

The just right thing

I’ve had an ongoing battle with soda bread for a while now. A bread recipe that requires zero yeast and zero kneading should, by my calculations, be a snap to make. And it is. Whether the resulting bread is also a snap to eat is an entirely different question. After my second or third failed attempt, it was time for a shock and awe approach. I scoured the internet, magazines, and my cookbook collection for soda bread recipes, and diligently tested every last one. The results ranged from mildly disappointing to truly devastating. It was shock and awe alright, only I was the one in shock. As for the awe, there wasn’t any. Just a whole lot of awful. One loaf was about as appetizing as a brick of pressed sawdust. The next was slightly better, but still crumbled to bits at the mere sight of a serrated bread knife. With a little tweaking, I managed to produce a couple of loaves that were moist, chewy, and even a teensy bit flaky, almost like a buttermilk biscuit. Almost. Which begged the question, why the heck am I investing two cups of buttermilk in a subpar soda bread when I could be making a batch, no, two batches of perfect, never-“almost” biscuits?

So I put my foot down. No more soda bread. And that was my stance, toes firmly planted on the kitchen floor, for the better part of two years. Until last Saturday night when, with not a crumb of bread in my pantry and nothing to lose, I decided to lift said foot and step tentatively in the direction of what would turn out to be the loaf I had been waiting for.



My most common complaint about the soda breads that I had tried in the past was simply that they didn’t live up to what I had in mind. I’m not sure that was very fair of me, given that I don’t think I really knew what I had in mind. Whatever it was, I was hell bent on figuring it out. It was a classic case of I’ll know it when I see it. With enough tweaking and thinking and tweaking some more, that elusive just-right soda bread would be mine. But last Saturday night, I was too tired to do much figuring. I had absolutely nothing in mind and, for once, I didn’t fight it. Instead, I looked around and took stock of what I did have: A crumpled old recipe. A half-empty carton of buttermilk in the back of the fridge. And the humble thought that a little bread might be nice with the tomato lentil soup that was simmering on the stovetop. When I realized that I was missing several of the listed ingredients, I didn’t tweak as much as improvise with what I had on hand.



This hearty, brown loaf may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect soda bread, but it’s mine. I’d say it’s the complete package. There’s the requisite craggy crust, and a crumb that’s spongy, yet compact enough to stand up to a proper, almost sandwich-worthy slicing. And slice it you must! This bread was made for the toaster oven. When I served a piece to my friend, Eitan, for breakfast one morning, he went so far as to pronounce it his “ideal toast.” I’d call that crazy talk if I didn’t know exactly what he means. In the toaster, everything that’s good about this bread gets better. It’s nuttier. Sweeter. The flavor is undeniably biscuit-like, but in a good way, a way that has you reaching for another slice, instead of wishing you’d made biscuits instead. And did I mention that there’s whole wheat flour in there? And oatmeal? And flax seeds? And that it takes less than ten minutes to prepare? This bread is all kinds of wonderful. It was a long time coming.

After so much trial and error, I was, at least, right about one thing all along: Sometimes, you have no idea what you’re looking for until it’s on the table, staring up at you through a layer of raspberry jam. Suddenly, there it is. The just right thing. When I think about how this particular just right thing came to be, I begin to wonder whether I was, perhaps, getting in my own way with all of that figuring, tweaking, and aiming. I do that sometimes. But more and more, I’m learning to step aside and let myself through. It’s so… humane. I like how it feels.



I’m off now to bake another one of these loaves for a late dinner. Here’s the recipe, in case you’d like to join me.

Brown Soda Bread
Adapted from Bon Appétit, May 1996

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp. instant oats
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
2 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and butter a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Combine the first seven ingredients in a large bowl, and mix well. Add the butter, and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a fine meal. Dig a well in the center of the dry ingredients, fill with the buttermilk, and stir just until the liquid is fully integrated. Any longer, and you risk a tough dough. The consistency will be something between a very soft dough and a thick, lumpy batter.

Transfer the dough to the prepared loaf pan, and bake until the bread is golden brown, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. It should take between 35 and 40 minutes. Turn out the bread onto a rack and cool slightly before serving.

3.11.2010

Before I knew it

When I was a sophomore in college, I decided to enroll in Basic Drawing. My first challenge was to make sense of the supply list that the instructor rattled off on the first day of class. I didn’t know the first thing about sketching pencils, charcoals, or vinyl erasers, and thanks to the sparkling goody two shoes nailed, as ever, to the soles of my feet, I was petrified that I would purchase the wrong supplies. The thought of showing up for class unprepared made me break out into a cold sweat. I needed help.

The only visual arts major I knew was a smart, skinny kid with a headful of curls named Eli. He was little more than an acquaintance at the time, but he agreed to accompany me down to Pearl Paint on Canal Street, and guide me through the harrowing task of selecting the proper supplies. It’s a long trip from 116th Street down to Canal. What I remember most about that day is that we did not stop talking, though I don’t recall what we discussed. Wait, come to think of it, I do remember a good twenty minutes on the subject of squatters’ rights. I had a lot to learn from this guy. He made me think. He made me laugh. There was something so natural about our conversation, and I remember thinking to myself all the way up and down the island of Manhattan, “I bet we could talk forever and never run out of things to say.” Little did I know that, a few years down the line, we would decide to put this hunch of mine to the test.

So far, so good. A decade or so later, we’re still talking each other’s ears off. There were a couple of years at the beginning of our relationship when we lived on separate continents. For a big chunk of this time, my internet access was limited, and phone calls were expensive. In the margins and back pages of my notebooks, I would scribble words and phrases throughout the day to remind me of the things I wanted to tell him. When, after weeks or months apart, we would reunite, I would flip from page to page, check off each note, and spin my collected observations into stories until it seemed as if he had been with me all along. Eli isn’t much of a notebook man so, on his side of the sea, he would grab whatever was handy – a cocktail napkin or a paper bag – and scratch out what he had suddenly thought to tell me. Then, he would fold the napkin or bag or, quite often, a page torn from a yellow legal pad, stuff it into an envelope, and send it across the ocean to my door. When one of us has something, no matter how small, to tell the other, it feels urgent. That’s true to this day.

Last week, Eli and I were both traveling for work. I was in New York, and he was in Seattle. We tumbled back into our apartment within 24 hours of each other, just as the weekend rolled in. Eli was jet lagged and exhausted from one of those nasty red-eye flights, and I was standing my ground against a stowaway cold that must have sneaked into my suitcase when I wasn’t looking. We didn’t feel like doing much of anything, except for sprawling head to toe on the sofa, snacking on carrots, cereal, and soy nuts, and filling each other in on a week’s worth of stories. We did manage to peel ourselves up for a walk about town in the blue-ish light of the five o’clock hour, but when dinnertime rolled around, we were back on that sofa, with much more still to say.

After a week away, we had little in our cupboards, less in our fridge and, if you can believe it, even less interest in doing anything about it. I stepped into our pantry without much of a plan, which didn’t really seem to matter seeing as how we weren’t all that hungry. But then my eye fell upon a jar of French green lentils, and I got to thinking about how lentils are not generally known for their beauty, and for shame!, because French green lentils are, in fact, truly lovely, like tiny speckled pebbles or, when wet, shiny black caviar, and my it sure feels nice to swirl my fingers through a heap of them in a bowlful of water. Well, one thing led to another, and when I say one thing, I mean the lentils, and by another, I mean an onion, browned, and then a carrot, sliced, and finally a can of chopped tomatoes. I tossed in some coriander and cumin somewhere along the way, and before I knew it, there was soup. It tasted clean and whole and nutty and bright and, as Eli said, almost citrusy, which I’m guessing had something to do with the coriander-tomato combo. We carried it in deep bowls back to our spots on the sofa, and I told Eli about one day last week when I was wandering around our old college campus and he called, and his number popped up on my phone, the same number he’s had since the year we met, and it hit me, as if for the first time, that “Hey, I married that guy.” Awesome. We wiped our bowls clean with slabs of sweet, chewy bread that I’ll have to tell you about soon because it is so quick and easy to make. Like, jet-lag-and-head-cold-and-practically-nothing-in-your-kitchen easy. But first, the soup which, together with the bread and the sofa and the stories and the kid who knows his art supplies and property law made for a pretty dreamy Saturday night.



Tomato Lentil Soup

I consider this soup to be more of a lentil soup with tomatoes than a tomato soup with lentils, but the name “Lentil Tomato Soup” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely as “Tomato Lentil Soup.” I may or may not have figured this out by repeating each prospective name aloud no fewer than twenty times while sitting alone at my computer desk. The point is, I’m going with “Tomato Lentil Soup” but, if you wouldn’t mind raising your voice, and maybe pumping your fist a little in the air when you get to the word “lentil,” I’d appreciate it. Tomato LENTIL soup. Yeah. Like that.

1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into ½-inch-thick coins
1 T. olive oil
1-2 T. red wine vinegar
1 c. French green lentils (also known as lentilles du Puy), picked through and rinsed
1 28 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp cumin
2 c. water or vegetable broth (I used water. It’s all we had.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T. fresh chopped parsley (optional)

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot (I used a 3 ½ quart cast-iron pot) over a medium-high flame, and sauté the onions until they are translucent and a little brown around the edges. Add the carrot coins and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are just tender. Turn down the flame to medium-low and add the red wine vinegar, which will allow you to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the coriander and cumin, and then add the tomatoes, lentils, and water or broth. Season with a few grinds of salt and pepper, and simmer over a medium-low flame for 35 to 40 minutes, until the lentils are cooked through but still hold their shape. (That’s one of the nice things about French green lentils, by the way: they don’t easily turn to mush.) If necessary, add a few more grinds of salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.

On Sunday, once we had replenished our kitchen’s supply of fruits and vegetables, I topped a bowl with fresh chopped parsley. It was great.

Serves 4-6.

Note: Leftover soup will thicken in the fridge, so you might want to add some water or broth when you reheat it.