Small-Time Cooks

By Jon Walsh and Diane Dickel

Mark was busy all week training the young guns at the restaurant and tailing thugs, so I rarely saw him. He did show up at my door one evening with flowers and groceries, though. I put on some music, and he rolled up his sleeves. Dinner was smooth, perfect for a romantic evening. We followed it up with a little dancing at a local dive where the jazz is always swell, and then a little dancing back at his place where the dancing is always better than the tunes.

Savory Dal for Lentil Pie or Toasted Pita with Lentils

1 cup red lentils

2 cups vegetable broth

1 1/2 Tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon red curry paste

1/4 cup Parmesan

1/4 cup coconut milk

8 pieces pita bread or 1 large round loaf

extra virgin olive oil

Wash the lentils and simmer in the vegetable broth and salt, over low heat. After about ten minutes, add the coconut milk and red curry paste. Mix together and continue to simmer. Add water and keep the lentils covered if needed, but once the lentils start to cook (become softer), do not add more water. Remove the lentils from heat before they become mushy, and mix in the butter.

To make the toasted pita with lentils, slice the pita into quarters, and toast in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes. Mix the pepper and Parmesan with the lentils, and serve on the pita wedges. To make the lentil pie, slice off the top of the loaf (and save) and pull out the bread inside, leaving just a shell. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the bread bowl, and toast in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Put the Parmesan on the bottom of the bread bowl, and spoon in the lentils. Put the black pepper on top, along with some more cheese. Place the top of the bread loaf back on the shell, and put back into the oven for about five minutes. Slice into wedges and serve.

Both of these dishes would be great with mixed vegetables—such as red onion, garlic, zucchini, tomato, or artichokes (cooked ahead of time)—added to the lentils in the last five minutes of cooking.

Mustard Roast Potatoes

1 1/2 pounds white potatoes

1 Tablespoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground mustard

fresh ground black pepper


3 Tablespoons olive oil

Wash and scrub the potatoes, and dice into angular chunks about the size of a cherry tomato. Toss with the olive oil and mustard seeds, and spread out over a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Grind black pepper and sprinkle salt over the potatoes to your taste (usually half a teaspoon of pepper is good). Put into a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, turning once. In the last five minutes, turn the temperature up to 500 degrees and sprinkle with the ground mustard. Serve.

The mustard roast potatoes are vegan, but the lentils are not. Replace the butter with a teaspoon of olive oil, and leave out the Parmesan (use some of the mixed vegetables listed above).