One thing I’ve come to appreciate since retiring from the workforce two years ago is the Ottawa Public Library, or the OPL. What a resource. What I most love is the option to reserve, to get in line for a particular publication. It may seem dispiriting to be number 143 in the line-up, but things move quickly and before you know it, the book is yours for three whole weeks. Free! It does happen that books become available all at once, in a big wave, and there’s no way you can read them all in the allotted time, but life is like that and you just get back in line again.
What books am I reading? I just started The Edge of the Empire: A Journey to Britannia, in which the author, Bronwen Riley, takes us on a trip from Rome to Hadrian’s Wall in the year 130 AD. Along the way we learn about the Roman Empire and what life was like in England way back then. I love reading about this. Previous to that, I got through a good chunk of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. Fascinating, mind blowing in fact, but slow going in my case, and it came due before I finished it. This is one of those few books you need to own so you can properly absorb its contents.
Our interests here at Kitchen on Fourth are not always historical. Other recent titles that I have brought home include: Eat Fat, Get Thin, by Mark Hyman, about the benefits of healthy fats; The Practice of Contemplative Photography, by Andy Karr and Michael Wood; Sweeter Off the Vine, a dessert cookbook by Yossy Arefi; 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line, by chef Eric Ripert; Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances; and, of course, The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. Life is not long enough to read all the books we want to read.
Apart from reading, I also pull weeds, vacuum the house, feed cats, walk the canal, keep an eye on Mom, take pictures, and of course cook, in this case Split Red Lentils with Cabbage, an easy and highly nutritious dish adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking. I love the way the salmon-coloured lentils turn yellow when they cook, love that they cook in about 20 minutes, and love how they come to life with garlic, ginger, and spices. Cabbage, too, is a superfood, lending this dish an extra level of goodness, as well as a stew-like consistency.
You could serve this as a side dish, with or without rice and topped with cucumber raita (see recipe) and cilantro, but it also converts nicely into a soup with the simple addition of more water. With both versions, I like to add, at the last minute, bright green beans cut into 1-inch pieces and steamed, and a few handfuls of baby spinach.
- 200 grams (1¼ cups) red split lentils (masoor dal), picked over, washed and drained
- 1.2 liters (5 cups) water
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into fine slices
- 225 grams (1/2 pound) cored and finely shredded cabbage
- 1 to 2 fresh, hot green or red chilies, to taste, finely sliced
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 medium tomato, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger
- Steamed green beans and baby spinach (optional)
- Cilantro to garnish
- Put the lentils and water into a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Remove any scum that collects at the top. Add the turmeric and stir to mix. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, turn heat down to low, and simmer gently for approximately 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.
- While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil in an 8 to 9-inch frying pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 3 to 4 seconds. Now put in the garlic. As soon as the garlic pieces begin to brown, add the onion, cabbage and chilies. Stir and fry the cabbage mixture for about 10 minutes or until it softens. Stir in ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Turn off the heat under the frying pan.
- When the lentils are soft, add the remaining 1/1/4 teaspoons salt, tomato, ginger and cabbage mixture to the pot. Stir to mix. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Add steamed beans and a couple of handfuls of baby spinach just before serving, if desired.
- Serves: 4 to 6
- ¼ cup finely chopped English (seedless) cucumber
- I thinly sliced scallion
- ¾ cup plain yogurt
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Combine all ingredients and serve.