That was the last line of a self-deprecating story I was telling at a friend's birthday party over the weekend about going to a park near my office on one of the warm, sunny days last week and being literally the only person there without an accompanying stroller and the pointed looks I was getting from everyone. The experience at least reaffirmed my belief that I don't have to worry about becoming a pedophile because, among plenty of other reasons, it turns out that I feel really super self-conscious and weird being alone when surrounded by strangers and their children even when I'm in a public place I have every right to be in.
But, unlike judgey looks from the wives of hedge-fund whatever-people-who-work-with-hedge-funds-are-called (managers? traders? executors?), I like lentils a great deal. They're cheap and they're good for you and they turn nitrogen from the air into protein, which is practically magic and therefore awesome. And they can be delicious when prepared with even a modicum of attention. Lentils combine with all sorts of things in interesting ways, providing endless variations on the kind of one-bowl dishes I like to eat for lunch and useful ways to do something with those herbs that are about to die or the last little bit of cheese left over from something. I cook all of the components separately, which sounds fussy (and is a bit, if I'm being honest here), but is worth it to have a variety of textures. I've gotten in the habit of cooking late Sunday afternoon/early Sunday evening and none of the elements really take that much attention, so it's easy enough to watch some Battlestar Galactica at the same time.
Lentil-based lunch dish #54
1 1/2 c. lentils, rinsed and picked over -- I used dark green French lentils because they have a peppery flavor I like and hold their shape when cooked
1 1/2 c. barley
2 handfuls chopped walnuts
2 onions, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
lots of chopped greens -- 4 c.? more? I used a mixture of kale and broccoli raab and kept throwing it in the pan until no more would fit
a few ounces of sharp, salty cheese, crumbled -- I used ricotta salata here because the feta at the coop is weirdly bland
Put the lentils and rosemary in a saucepan with plenty of water, at least 6 cups. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until lentils are tender. Drain them and put them in a large bowl. I don't bother washing the pan here and put it right back on the stove to cook the barley in at least 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender. Drain and add to the lentils in the bowl. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and salt liberally. It will need it.
Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet until they're fragrant. Set them aside. Add olive oil to the skillet, then the onions and some salt. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until they're brown and jammy. Don't rush this; the caramelized onions add a ton of flavor. Take the onions out with tongs, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible, and add to the lentils and barley. Add the greens to the skillet, stirring to coat with the oil and cooking until tender. Add to the lentils/barley/onions mixture, stirring to combine.
Divide the mixture into five containers and top each with walnuts and crumbled cheese.