Bowl Filled with Super Good Stuff (Tahini Dressing with Lentils and Roasted Veg Edition)
something to make over and over again when you don’t know what else to make.
Things you’ll need: Lentils, stock/coconut milk/liquid, alliums, and some aromatic. Vegetables to roast, oil, and seasoning. Tahini, lemons, sesame oil, rice vinegar, maple syrup/honey/sugar. A bowl.
incidentally gluten-free and vegetarian, easily vegan.
By now, you are likely cooking repeats and exhausted from the prospect of having to feed yourself (and others) EVERY DAY, multiple times a day. Whether it’s pasta, cereal, beans, or soup, it’s the season of the bowl. That perfect vessel for heaping in good stuff, perfectly shaped to nestle into, doubling as hand warmer and surrogate cuddle.
Here’s the thing, you love beans, it’s true. Their cousin, the lentil, is just as tasty, cooks faster, and is maybe even a little better for you (don’t tell the beans). You’ve been on a tear with beans and maybe it’s just nice to take a break from all the farts (a totally natural and healthy byproduct of a well-fed gut).
Black, Green, French (Le Puy), and your standard Brown lentil are ideal for this kind of bowl, but there is no reason to shy away from the mushier red or yellow lentils if you don’t care about maintaining their adorable roundness.
Start with fat, add alliums (maybe carrots, mushrooms, or full-on mirepoix too) and then add the lentils. Season with salt, pepper, and your chosen aromatic (bay, thyme, cumin, coriander, whatever you’re into). Let that all cook on medium-ish until the lentils “darken” (even though you still are not quite sure what that means, maybe 5-10 minutes) and then add some liquid: coconut milk, stock, water with bouillon, or some kind of combination of those. You are looking for something like 2-3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of lentils unless you are going for the mushier split lentil varieties (red or yellow), in which case you can pull it back to like 1 ½ ish cups of liquid. Then, let it simmer for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the lentil, maybe a little less for the split lentils. Salt to taste. Boom: lentils.
In the meantime, there are probably 3-5 different vegetables in your direct vicinity: onions, carrots, potatoes, so many squashes, cauliflower, beets, cabbage, brussels sprouts, parsnips, peppers, kale, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, celeriac, kohlrabi (you know what a vegetable is). Pick a couple, chop em up, toss them with oil, salt, pepper, and seasoning (thyme, coriander, etc), then roast them on 425 for 10-30 minutes depending on the cut and particular vegetable. Set up two trays to get the big potatoey objects in first and then add the quick roasting cauliflower-ish-kale stuff later. Throw some parchment paper on the bottom of the pans for easy clean-up. Boom: roasted vegetables.
But here’s the thing that keeps you coming back to variations of this same dish, over and over. It’s not just the bowl (which is your favorite dishware), or the lentils (because you can also do this with beans, polenta, tofu, rice, zoodles or whatever), or even the roasted veggies (because a roasted vegetable is the ubiquitous fall/winter side dish). No. It’s not that. It’s the tahini dressing.
Maybe you didn’t know that you even liked tahini. Maybe you only know about it because you’ve watched a bunch of thirty-second videos about making hummus. Look, sesame has been cultivated for over 3500 years because it’s fucking delicious. It goes in cookies, cake, smoothies, oatmeal, and can be mixed into 14,983 types of sauce or dressing. Tahini is delicious and you do not need to mess around with it very much.
Start with ½ cup of tahini and stir in the juice from two small lemons or one big lemon and that half sitting in your fridge. Don’t freak out when the tahini suddenly turns into some kind of ancient concrete. That’s just alchemy or magic or something. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of cold water (because the internet said it should be really cold in order to avoid clumping) and the texture will relax. Promise. Next, add a teaspoon each of sesame oil, rice vinegar, and maple syrup and then salt to taste. Immersion-blend whisk or whatever. Boom: dressing. Once you realize how good it is on everything, make big batches for those days you don’t know what else to make except a variation of this same thing, only with different stuff under the dressing.
Grab a bowl, scoop in lentils, top with roasted veggies, douse in dressing. Prep out little containers of the stuff and eat it again later. Pre-cook a bunch of lentils, freeze them, and then make this whenever you have vegetables to roast and no will to create something new.
This is fairly basic food. The internet is full of fancy variations, but you are a proponent of letting good food be good food without fucking with it too much. Basic is great. You don’t have time to fold in cheese or roll pastry or whatever. Find something that works, can mostly be made ahead, varies easily, and doesn’t require any kind of meeting. Boom.