My poor kitchen. Usually it’s just the two of us, with an occasional lunch or dinner guest. We like guests, such as my friend Shawn Marie, with whom we had a sleepover on her last night in Chicago before moving back to Michigan. But in the last year or so, my kitchen has grown very fond of Matt, who brings considerable culinary skills to the counter. My kitchen and I really like Matt, but it’s only fair that sometimes when I visit him, it’s on his turf, wherever his turf happens to be at the time. He’s a wanderer—a gypsy, if you will.
So my poor kitchen. She hasn’t seen Matt since late March, and she doesn’t know when she will see him again. It’s a shame, really, because they get along so well. Matt has this habit, when he comes to visit me, of immediately claiming some portion of the kitchen table. We make tea, and he unloads his phone, glasses, and other random items, thus making his presence visibly known. Almost in spite of myself, I like this habit of his—it suggests a level of comfort, a gesture that says, “Hey, I’m going to stay for a while.” I think it’s significant that he chooses the kitchen table for his territory—or maybe it’s just because that’s where we spend the most time. Which is significant in its own right.
In her extreme longing for him, my kitchen wrote Matt a letter. You could call it a love letter—she and I share that affection for him—but she’s such a gossip! Hmmph! Hopefully Matt doesn’t mind sharing his personal correspondence with all of you, dear readers. Here he has no choice!
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It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other. Rose-Anne tells me that you are doing well, alternating between working too hard and swimming in a pool somewhere out West. She also tells me you have a lovely kitchen of your own, filled with lots of counter space, beautiful pots, and a giant food processor. You know, of course, that I’m a bit deficient in counter space, but I like to think that I make up for it in the sheer beauty of my honey-colored wooden floor and a wall of windows that lets you gaze out at the skyline, big stately trees, and a corner of the neighborhood park.
I hear that you are very tan these days! Rose-Anne and I have mixed feelings about this. While we feel that you are probably even more attractive with a tan (as though you need to be more attractive, you heart-stealer!), this tanning habit of yours is not good for your skin. I have instructed Rose-Anne to check you for moles from head to toe when she sees you again. She feels confident that she can do this task thoroughly.
You should know, though, that Rose-Anne remains virtually winter-white. Despite ample amounts of walking and running outside these days, her daily application of sunscreen keeps her looking rather pasty. It’s not terribly attractive to some people, but she insists that a history of sunburns puts her at risk for ugly things like skin cancer. If you don’t mind, maybe you can check her for moles too.
Interesting things have been happening inside my four walls. Did you know that I got to meet Joe, Rose-Anne’s local boy? It’s true: she made him dinner not too long ago. It was a lovely summer meal, Lunar Gazpacho and Warm Chickpea Salad with Shallots and Red Wine Vinaigrette, accompanied by some storebought French bread. Delicious! At least I thought so. Joe was not a fan of the chickpeas—something that did not bode well for his relationship with Rose-Anne.
Now, you might recall that I was not a fan of this Joe guy from the beginning. I really think Rose-Anne ought to be with a guy who not only knows his way around the kitchen but who also has things to teach her. Joe is not a cooking man. And as it turns out, Matt, he’s not a big fan of you, either. Rose-Anne explained it to me, “My boyfriend doesn’t like my other boyfriend.” So Joe dumped her. Hmmph! Jealous boys are so very unpleasant. I’m glad you aren’t like that. And you have a lovely way with onions.
Speaking of onions, Rose-Anne continues to consume large quantities of them, mostly cooked but occasionally raw. She is surprised and happy that you find this onion-love of hers attractive rather than weird and stinky the way most people do. A handful of sliced raw onions found their way into a delicious summery salad of lentils, bell peppers, avocado(!), fresh herbs, and a lemony-garlicky dressing. It’s really a great salad, the perfect thing to mix up on a Sunday afternoon in July. It keeps well, thanks to the lemon juice, and plays well with others, such as scrambled eggs or homemade flatbread. We aren’t sure if you would like it—your tastes are particular and hard for us to predict—but Rose-Anne likes it a lot. I think she’s planning to make another batch soon.
I really miss you, Matt. I hope that we will see each other again. Perhaps in the fall? Fall, as you know, is the most beautiful season in the Midwest. And Rose-Anne has the most amazing recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes, courtesy of her friend Nicole. We have a hunch that you might like them. And if you don’t, well, we can always make scones.
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Green Lentil Salad with Lemon-Garlic Dressing
Adapted from "Green Lentil Salad with Lemon Dressing" in Ladle, Leaf, and Loaf by Lisa Cowden
Makes 4 entrée-sized portions
For the salad:
¼ cup green lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup thinly sliced white or yellow onion
1 perfectly ripe avocado, diced into ½-inch chunks (need avocado dicing instructions? Click here for help!)
~2 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves
~2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
Salt to taste
For the dressing:
¼ tsp. freshly grated lemon peel
¼ cup of fresh lemon juice (about one lemon’s worth of juice)
¼ cup canola oil or other mild vegetable oil
1 clove of garlic, pressed through a garlic press
¼ tsp. salt, or to taste
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1) After rinsing the lentils, place them in a medium-sized pot and cover them with about an inch of cold water. Bring the lentils to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 40 minutes or until the lentils are soft but still hold their shape. You’ll want to check the lentils periodically to make sure they have enough water; if they look like they’ve become dry but they aren’t tender yet, add a few tablespoons of water and bring it back to a simmer.
2) Drain the lentils and set them aside to cool. Whisk together the dressing ingredients with a fork in a high-sided bowl or a large measuring cup, such as a measuring cup with a volume of two cups.
3) In a large mixing bowl, toss together the bell peppers, onion, avocado chunks, and fresh herbs. Add the lentils and the dressing and toss again. Set aside to marinate for an hour at room temperature, or, if it will be more than an hour before you eat, put the salad in the refrigerator and chill until you are ready to serve it. When you are ready to serve it, either taste and add more salt or allow each diner to add salt to his or her taste. Although there is salt in the dressing, it will probably need a little bit more added right before you eat.