Click Here North Star Writers Group
Syndicated Content.
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Nancy Morgan
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Feature Page
David J. Pollay - The Happiness Answer
Cindy Droog - The Working Mom
The Laughing Chef
Mike Ball - What I've Learned So Far
Bob Batz - Senior Moments
D.F. Krause - Business Ridiculous
Roger Mursick - Twisted Ironies
The Laughing Chef
  The Laughing Chef's Column Archive

April 2, 2007

The Case of the Leek


Among the pulses, perhaps the most unimposing is the little lentil. It gives the impression that when food chats, the lentil has a hard time getting a word in edgewise.


No one will perhaps ever know if this is true, but we can take some of this and apply it when we choose to make the lentil the focus of a meal.


It is small, which means you will need many to do the work of fewer dried beans of bigger size. There is also a shorter cooking time, perhaps half an hour from start to finish.


We might be left to our surmises when it comes to inner-pulse politics, but we can be certain of one thing – the lentil gets on well with rice. Whether this is a function of similar size or similar color is a matter of conjecture.


The two are cooked in largely the same way. Add them to water, heat the water to boiling and turn down the heat until the contents of the pot are cooked. But, while it takes perhaps 45 minutes to cook brown rice, it takes maybe 20 minutes to cook brown lentils (a warning – overcooking will cause brown lentils to fall into mushiness).


If you were to mix brown lentils and brown rice, you might be tempted to call your dish “The Man in Drab” (a warning – to do this is to risk incurring the wrath of Johnny Cash’s spirit). It would not only be unappealing to the eye, it would be nearly devoid of flavor. Some people might enjoy lentils and rice with nothing else. If you know someone like this and they invite you over, feign illness. You will be asleep on their couches within 20 minutes of arriving.


A good sauce is a simple mix of leek and tomato.


Because the leek is a bigger, sweeter cousin of the green onion, it is possible that for flavor purposes you may indeed feel free to substitute in any number of ways – from green onions, to shallots, to regular onions. You’ve stumbled into a hornet’s nest of flexibility. If you aren’t a fan of the leek, or are otherwise unfamiliar with its ways and are nervous about treading across new ground, allow yourself to be stung (repeatedly, if necessary).


Your first step is to unlock the leek’s sweeter, milder flavor. This is done in ways that are so predictable that you should be worried if you didn’t see them coming.


Chop off the green stem and root structures and cut it in half lengthwise. Slice across the grain into thin strips. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic and add the sliced leek. While you sauté this over a gentle heat, cut up tomatoes and add those when the leek is softened.


Perhaps you are now saying, “That’s all? What kind of fraud calls that a sauce?”


If this is indeed what you are saying, you are invited to calm down. Hysterics get you nowhere. But it does raise a problem. Leeks and tomatoes, by themselves, do little to change the basic flavor of this dish. Settling for half measures, successful in other endeavors (raising a child, fixing an aircraft, balancing a budget), will raise the question of why you bothered.


To the tomatoes and leeks, we commend some spices – curry powder and hot paprika. Of the herbs, parsley is a good accompaniment (as it is elsewhere, no herb is perhaps as genial and as easy to get along with as our old friend parsley), as is judicious use of cilantro. On the latter, be forewarned – it can be an obnoxious, overbearing brute.


Allow your sauce to blend over a low heat for a few moments, until such time as the tomato juice cooks down. This will give the various members of your little orchestra time to compare notes and strike harmony.


While you do this, measure out equal parts brown lentils and brown rice. Stir them together, and contemplate the visuals of what you have created. It looks unappetizing and unfriendly. It is a reminder of just why you have spent time cooking together leeks and tomatoes and other stuff.


Improve its appearance by adding your sauce. The instant addition of reddish and white to green and olive drab will make it more appealing to the eyes. Here, a piece of last-second inspiration. Squeezing lemon juice over it won’t improve the visual qualities, but it will add a certain citrus-y oomph.


To offer feedback on this column, click here.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # EB026. Request permission to publish here.