Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spicy Lentil Spread

I’m writing this in my pajamas, still in shock. In the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live, it rains a lot. It rains a lot in jungles, too, but jungles have heat and sun! Here, we will soon slip and slide into June-uary, with the rain showing no sign of quitting. We’ve been taking swimming lessons, and everyone has an arc at the ready. Ron and I own one male fish - singular, uno, un! It’s rained so hard and for so long that were seriously thinking about getting a female fish, as well. The animals, two-by-two, and all that.

As I said a moment ago, Im writing this in my pajamas, still in shock. I gave a party on Saturday, which began at the stroke of 4. The sun made a rare guest appearance at 3:45, so I rushed tablecloths, dishes, cutlery, and a Japanese cooker (another of my favorite kitchen appliances, to be discussed in a future blog) outside. 

I saw myself like Martha Stewart, entertaining al fresco with sumptuous summer linens, color-coordinated plates, and antique drinking glasses picked up for a few pennies at a farm sale in Vermont. OK, I’ve never been to Vermont and own none of those things, but that was what I imagined as I quickly set an outdoor table with a huge pitcher of flowers and generally made things pretty.
My guests arrived in car-pools (in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live, we use watery words), so everyone got here at more or less the same time. At precisely 4 o’clock, the sun said sayonara, and the heavens opened like hell.
Tablecloths, dishes, cutlery, Japanese cooker - sopping, soaked, saturated! Rushing as much as I could indoors, I rearranged the buffet settings on my indoor table to make room for the Japanese cooker (If you don't already own a Japanese cooker, these are great items. Fired by butane, they allow flame-cooking right at the table. I have two Japanese cookers, and sometimes have dinner guests cook their own sukiyaki as we chat at the table. As I’ve said, I’ll talk about that in a future blog).
When it came time for the buffet, I threw an iron pot on the cooker so the warm chèvre* I’d made would simmer slowly, tantalizing my guests (*A “chèvre” is a French goat. I didn't happen to have one handy, and if I had, would have saved it for the arc. Instead, I used the word in its more colloquial meaning of  “French goat cheese.” I’ll provide my chèvre recipe in tomorrow’s posting). 
Maybe things went wrong because my Japanese cooker was wet, or maybe a helpful guest turned the flame down so low that it went out. Whatever the reason, when I eventually got to the buffet table, the flame was out and the chèvre was cold, so I leaned over the cooker to flick it on. With a “whoosh” so powerful I felt like I’d had a breast lift, the cooker went ka-blooey!  (God only knows, I need a boob job, but not breasts that look like goiters. Still, the new cleft in my chin is kinda cute.)
As I’ve learned from long, dangerous experience, explosions fascinate guests, and everyone tittered nervously as they checked the location of the nearest exit. I’m happy to report that the sudden “whoosh” of blue flame didn’t blast off my eyebrows. I’d hate to go through life with a painted-on quizzical look. 
The rain is still pounding down as I write these words. Happily, the farmers have no worries about drought. Among the appetizers I served last night was a Spicy Lentil Spread with Parmesan Pita Crisps. The spread is best made a day or two in advance, allowing the flavors to blend. Both recipes are very easy - and very tasty. Here’s the first one!
Spicy Lentil Spread:
One 19 fl. oz. (540 mL) can lentils
One-half a 19 fl. oz. (540 mL) can chick peas
½ c. coarsely chopped red onion
4 large garlic cloves, chopped (Don't add more - unless you’re warding off vampires)
1 chili pepper or serano pepper, about 2 in. long (the small, powerful, green kind - snip off the stem and use the rest, including seeds)
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil 
1 tsp. cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
¼ c. roughly chopped cilantro, including stems

Rinse lentils well. Drain and rinse again. Place all ingredients in food processor, whirling until smooth. Make 1 or 2 days ahead so flavors can blend. Refrigerate in a covered container until needed.  Garnish with a little extra chopped cilantro and serve with Parmesan Pita Chips (see my next post). 

Cook lentils and assemble other ingredients

Add all to food processor

Once everything's been added ...

Whirl until smooth
Add more lentils - or rinsed, drained chick peas - if needed. 

Ready to serve!

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