The Lentil Manifesto

Food, gentle reader, is much better when it engages your mind as well as your senses, don't you think? Heres an idea: a restaurant with no prices. Pay what you think is fair! I was incredulous when I first heard of such a concept, and quite delighted when I saw it in action.

As we speak, "Lentil as Anything", a co-op based on this intriguing philosophy, thrives in Melbourne. This summer (yes, that would be December), I had the good fortune to stop by the Abbotsford as well as St Kilda locations. The pictures are of the St Kilda location.

Eating at Lentil as Anything put a spring in my step. For one thing, its a socially responsible, innovative enterprise. For another thing, it was so good to see them doing well. Its a colorful place, in many ways. The perfect way to spend a warm Sunday afternoon.

I am partial to the Abbotsford location (Thank you, Chai!) Housed in what used to be an old convent, Lentil as Anything is vibrant and unpretentious. The food is flavorful, locally sourced and altogether delicious.

I passed up the buffet and tried the 'oko', short for okonomiyaki pancakes. Even though the buffet had more choices, I loved my pancakes. Unusual, and quite yum, they hit the spot. I picked a quiet time to stop by the St Kilda location and it was charming, in that bohemian sort of way.

My lentil leanings, since coming back to Rochester, manifest in a simple split pea soup. Once you get over the Exorcist association, its impossible to get this one wrong. Bay leaves and black pepper make all the difference. The picture gods deserted me on this one, so shield your eyes!

Heres what I did:
1. Cooked 1 cup of split peas.
2. Sauted up to one cup diced white onion, garlic, celery, mushroom and carrots. Tossed in two bay leaves.
3. Added the cooked peas. Add salt to taste. Thicken with milk, stock or water.
4. A few grinds of pepper and I was all set!

Its really more of a split pea sludge than a soup, but you'll like it that way. This one goes to The WellSeasoned Cook, who is hosting "My Legume Love Affair"! How appropriate considering Valentine's Day is just round the corner! I'm speading the love - also hoping to see you at "No Croutons Required", hosted by Lisa of Food and Spice. This month's theme is Vegetarian Soups!


See weed?

Goodness gracious gentle reader, its been too long!! How have you been? Hugs!!

What an incredible two months I've had! Life has been beyond good to me. November and December brought with them, an embarassment of riches. Much good food has been consumed, my soles are worn and my heart is full.

I've been an absolute slug about blogging because I wanted the dust to settle. I waited for my experiences to crystalize into perfectly shaped, clear droplets. I hoped that memory and reflection would smooth any rough edges and bring clarity and perfect understanding. Like the perfect glass menagerie.

As much as I treasure my little unicorns, life, with cheerful boisterousness, jostles us all. The past is happily enmeshed with the present and the future. So much for staying inside the lines!

And so I will acquiesce and jump in. Joyfully. All those tastes, touches, smells and smiles still linger in my brain. Perhaps, they will rush unbidden into my mind one afternoon. Maybe shimmer lightly just before I open my eyes. Like invisible threads, they draw me to future tastes and smiles. The mysterious wonderful web that the universe weaves around us.

On to less abstract matters - wakame! A Japanese girl I knew swore by the power of seaweed - she said her hair had been lustrous in Japan because she ate more seaweed when she lived in Japan! Many moons later, I found myself in a mighty-foods phase and her seaweed testimonial rang in my ears.

Long story short, I found Wakame in an Asian grocery store. Rehydrating it was like magic. I immersed the wakame in a little water and in a few minutes, presto, silky green sheets emerged where dry, black tendrils had been!

Wakame salad (based on recipe from Epicurious)
- 3 tablespoons rehydrated wakame (1 tablespoon dry)
- 1/2 inch ginger, chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic chopped fine
- 3 tablespoons tamari
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- fresh cilantro / sesame seeds for garnish

Make the dressing and toss in the rehydrated wakame. Thats all there is to it! Its unbelievably delicious! Turned out just like the seaweed dim sum at Golden Port.