First things first. If anyone wants to come over and high five me, this Thai-ish lentil bowl is basically an exact, successful replica of the one that I adore from Snap Kitchen on my trips to Dallas.
I love that bowl so so so much, but Connecticut has not yet picked up on the awesome grab-and-go factor of Snap Kitchen. Perhaps because, if you put a bank of microwaves anywhere in a public space in the tri-state area, it would quickly devolve into chaos, overcome by the many New Yorkers who don’t have a microwave in their apartment (like my sister). Also first, the recipe for the lentil bowl is a little overwhelming to look at. It has a lot of components, and the American home cooking scene is currently not about slowing down to make a whole separate (DELICIOUS!) pesto sauce to go with your 30-minute-meal. But, if you make these babies in bulk for your weekly meal prep, you’re going to have the most BA lunch all week at work. The recipe makes four, even allowing you Friday off for office pizza day. Because it’s all about balance.
And now, second things. I’m not really up for spending a whole 5-paragraph blog post talking in detail about food, because I’m…sick on the couch! I about killed myself retesting this recipe while sick, photographing it, and then being sent immediately to the couch by my soon-to-be-hubby. I just didn’t have enough in me to clean up, and after the longest day at work, Stevie picked up all the slack, cleaning up both the kitchen and my photo shoot scene. I hate illness in any form, and I know some of you out there can identify. Half the population is like, “woo hoo! couch day!”, and then the half of the population including me is like, “all I want to do is test out this enchilada pie recipe and make the applesauce filling for my weekend muffins and finish planning my wedding and…” You get the picture. I’m sure you know instantly which camp is yours. It will be an interesting next month of blogging, balancing out wedding things, recovery, and recipes galore. The best thing I can do right now is to keep time-warping myself to two months or a year from now, which serves as a reminder that our wedding is worth skipping a few regularly scheduled blog posts or a food photo taken in kind of weird lighting.
There are so many different kinds of food blogs out there, many of them blogs-turned-businesses, or blogs that were intended as a business from day one. Lately I’ve been listening to the new Food Blogger Pro podcast, and it’s really motivational and educational, but I still haven’t resolved that Natural Comfort Kitchen is my business. I got into food blogging for the love of cooking and a new interest in photography, and I’m nervous that declaring it a business will suck all the fun out of cooking. I notice it already does when I focus too much on my page views or Instagram likes or ad revenue (all $22 of it per month). I feel like back when PW and Smitten Kitchen, and many of the 5-ish year old blogs that do now happen to be businesses were just getting started, they didn’t have to make this decision up front. They started doing something that they had to love because there wasn’t as much opportunity for monetization, and then eventually, they made enough to quit their day job (and more).
These days, it’s so hard to stand out. Sure, there are a ton of talented bloggers, but how are you even supposed to find them in the sea of food blogs whose sole goal is to make a dime or get a cookbook deal? When it comes down to it, it sounds like my biggest fear in making NCK my full-time job is that I’ll just get lost in the crowd and will…fail. And have to go back to doing it “just for fun”. Not the worst thing that could happen. I’m totally confident in the kitchen, but can I present recipes and meal plans in an interesting, accessible, user-friendly way? We’ll find out. I have a feeling this will be a topic of some new year’s resolutions musings, but in the meantime, expect more colorful, healthy, and comforting recipes of every variety (insert smiley face here).
- 1 C packed cilantro leaves
- 1 C packed basil leaves (Thai basil if available. I used regular basil.)
- 1 - 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- ⅓ C roasted, unsalted cashews (see notes)
- ½ t kosher salt
- ¼ C olive oil
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ C apple cider vinegar
- 2 t agave nectar or maple syrup
- 1 C + 2 T hottest tap water
- 1 C split red lentils, rinsed
- ½ C quinoa, any color, rinsed (I used a mix)
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
- ¼ C sliced almonds
- 1 large bunch curly green kale, stems removed and chopped or sliced
- 1 T coconut oil
- 2 t kosher salt (more to taste)
- 2 limes - 1 juiced, 1 cut in wedges
- 1 large carrot
- If desired, extra cilantro
- Make the pickled onions. Place onion in a jar or other glass container with lid. Whisk vinegar, agave, 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 cup hottest tap water until salt dissolves. Pour mixture over onions so they're submerged (there should be enough liquid if your onion is small). Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 hour. Use, or transfer to the refrigerator. Drain after 24 hours in the fridge.
- Make the pesto. Combine all ingredients except oil in a food processor and process until finely chopped, scraping down the sides with a spatula once or twice. Add the oil all at once and process until it forms a sauce. Transfer to a bowl or jar and set aside (refrigerate if making ahead of time).
- Cook lentils and quinoa. Combine lentils in a medium saucepan with 2 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir occasionally until just tender, 5 to 6 minutes (split lentils cook super fast!). Drain any excess water, then transfer to a mixing bowl. Rinse pan and cook quinoa in it, according to package instructions (or see my instructions here, using ¾ cup water). Add quinoa and reserved bell pepper to bowl with lentils and set aside.
- Toast almonds. Add almonds to a large, dry skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally for 5 to 10 minutes, until moderately browned. Remove to a dish to cool.
- Make kale. Heat coconut oil in the same large skillet over medium heat. Once melted and hot, add kale and a pinch of salt. Toss with tongs to coat with oil, then occasionally as kale sautés. When kale is almost completely wilted, squeeze juice of 1 lime into the pan and allow it to reduce completely. Divide kale between four bowls or containers.
- To the same skillet over medium low heat, add lentil mixture, ½ cup pesto, and 1 tablespoon water. Stir until combined and pesto coats everything, adding more water if pesto is forming clumps. Distribute equally amongst the bowls, on top of or next to the kale.
- Peel the carrot and cut into ribbons by running a vegetable peeler down the length of it (or slice thinly into rounds). Top each bowl with one fourth of carrot ribbons. Top bowls with a big forkful of pickled red onions, a tablespoon of slivered almonds, a lime wedge, and extra cilantro, if using. Serve immediately, or, to reheat later, remove lime and cilantro and microwave about a minute on high, then squeeze lime over the bowl, salt if needed, and top with cilantro.
Cashews - To roast your own, bake on middle oven rack on a baking sheet at 350 (F) for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Remove to a towel to cool. If you want to use roasted, salted store bought cashews, just omit salt from the pesto recipe.
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