Transitioning | Lentils & Leeks with Tarragon over Fennel Frond Rice
I know we’re more than two weeks into January, and you’re all probably well into your resolutions, or maybe you’ve already broken them. But I have to confess that I am still in holiday mode. Since my birthday comes a few days before Christmas, I could say I started there, but really the entire month of December is an excuse to blow off responsibilities for such emergencies as last-minute gift and/or party outfit shopping and naked eaves begging for strings of pretty white lights. Then the standard Christmas and New Year’s Eve tag team of festivities comes along. Most of you probably got back to your normal routines shortly thereafter. Not me. Last week, Mike and I celebrated our third anniversary by cozying ourselves into an inn for a few days in Charlottesville, Virginia. You know, because we thought all that relaxation had earned us some…relaxation. So there—it’s been a gluttonous, self-indulgent few weeks, and I don’t have a crumb of guilt about it.
See, one of my most valuable skills is that I can find a way to justify pretty much anything, from buying yet another pair of shoes to going out for ice cream. In the case of this bender, it got a pass because in just a few days, I’m starting graduate school. The next two years will be full of continuing to work full time, with freelance work and blogging happening on the side, while taking classes as I pursue an M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health at Tai Sophia Institute. My path to this course of study has been a long and circuitous one, but I’m so relieved to have found a program that feels perfectly suited to my interests at a school whose mindset feels so well aligned with my own.
As I wind down from this month of building up my energy stores, I’ll also be returning to cooking on a more regular basis. I expect my studies will encourage even more adventurous culinary undertakings, and I’m excited to bring that new perspective to my kitchen, life, and blog!
This preparation of lentils and rice represents the transitions that are happening for me now. The tarragon and fennel fronds were left over from Christmas dinner, and as I move out of holiday mode, I hope to remember to continue valuing relaxation and the occasional indulgence. Lentils with rice are a familiar and comforting meal, but these flavors aren’t ones I regularly combine with them. As I embark on this new undertaking, I will keep one foot rooted in the earth from which I’ve grown. The leeks were added after picking them up at a new co-op that Mike and I explored one day, and they are one of his favorites. As my days fill up with work and study, I will remember to take breaks to explore new nooks in my own neighborhood and beyond, as well as to nourish my relationship. I don’t usually make resolutions at the new year, but I will carry these intentions with me as I step forward along my path.
Lentils & Leeks with Tarragon over Fennel Frond Rice
Yield: 4 large servings
1 tbsp. butter [use all olive oil for a vegan option]
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 large leeks, ends discarded, halved lengthwise, sliced, rinsed, dried
2 large shallots, peeled, sliced
1/4 cup white wine, room temperature
2/3 cup lentils (I recommend French or beluga)
2 2/3 cups water or stock
2 tbsp. tarragon leaves, chopped
half a lemon, juiced
half a lemon, sliced paper thin, the circles quartered
¼ cup fennel fronds, chopped
1 cup brown jasmine rice, cooked
salt & pepper to taste
Put the butter and oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the sliced leeks and a big pinch of salt. When the leeks begin to soften, after about 7 minutes, add the sliced shallots to the pot. Continue cooking over medium to medium-low heat until the leeks and shallots are soft and translucent but not brown.
Stir in the wine, and continue cooking for just a few minutes until it is absorbed. Add the lentils and the water or stock, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the lentils simmer, and cover the pot with an askew lid to allow some steam to escape. Simmer until the lentils are done to taste, about 20 minutes (cooking time may be more or less depending on what kind of lentils you use). When the lentils are almost done, remove the lid to allow the moisture to cook off, or add more liquid if you find your pot has gone dry before the lentils have cooked.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the tarragon and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir the chopped fennel fronds into the cooked rice, along with a glug of olive oil.
Serve the lentils over the rice, and top with the lemon pieces, which may be eaten rind and all. (It’s best to add the lemons fresh, because they tend to make any leftovers somewhat bitter.)