Monday, March 10, 2014

BPA-Free Plastic Is Just as Toxic & A Non-Toxic Water Bottle Giveaway

I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since I first learned about the dangers of BPA (bisphenol A) a few years back. So when I saw this eye-opening Mother Jones article, The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics pop up in my Facebook feed a couple of days ago, I could practically hear the thud of footwear falling from the sky...

Sippy cup by Ramsey Beyer via Flickr

It turns out that many BPA-free plastics are just as bad for us as the BPA-laden kind, and possibly worse, in some cases. The endocrine disruptors in most plastics have far-ranging effects that not only make us sick, infertile and genetically wacky but they also mess up our children (assuming you overcome the infertility problems) and our children's children and our children's children's children and, well, you get the idea, right?

Perhaps even more disturbing, companies are not required to determine their level of toxicity before releasing them for sale and marketing them as "safe and non-toxic."

After reading, my guilty, panicked thought was, "Now I MUST get rid of the last few plastic sippy cups we have." We got rid of our Nalgene's back in 2008 when the news broke about BPA's badness. And we ditched all our plastic baby bottles a few years ago in favor of Born Free's sturdy, glass bottles with silicone (which is among the least toxic plastics) nipples. And we've got some stainless steel sippy cups in the mix, too. But we'd never quite managed to rid our house of all of the BPA-free plastic sippy cups.


So I turned to MightyNest - the wonderful company I partnered with on my last non-toxic giveaway three years ago. They've got a great selection of glass and stainless steel water bottles and sippy cups for sale. I ordered a few new cups to take the place of the poisonous plastic ones we've still been using against my better judgment. Then I emailed them to see if they'd be open to doing another giveaway to help people ditch their poisonous plastics, too. They were :)

So read on to find out how you can win $100 worth of safe, non-toxic water bottles and food storage containers PLUS $100 for your school. MightyNest's unique program for schools supports the school of your choice when you buy any of their high quality, eco-friendly, non-toxic products – by donating 15% of your purchase price to your local school.

Take the pledge to stop using plastic water bottles and you'll be automatically entered to win a $100 MightyNest gift certificate. The deadline to enter is March 19th. Even if you don't end up winning this delightful giveaway, I hope you'll pitch your plastic now. You won't regret it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Maple Crème Brûlée

I've been wanting to make crème brûlée ever since our friend, Lana, made these for us last winter. Before that, it had never occurred to me that one could make crème brûlée at home. In my mind, this decadently creamy dessert was reserved for French restaurants, alone.

Maple crème brûlée by Eve Fox the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

But it turns out that it's not particularly hard - though you do need to plan ahead since there's both baking and cooling time required. And the result is, not surprisingly, completely delicious. Creamy, sweet, and silky with that delightfully crunchy, caramelized sugar crust you crack with your fork just before digging in to take a little taste of heaven. It's the perfect way to end a cold, snowy day.

Local, pasture-raised eggs from a farm in Fleischmanns, NY by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

I thought this was cute - I loved these little notes from the farmer. And I really loved that their hens are pasture-raised. I also chose Organic Valley heavy cream for that same reason - their cows are pasture-raised. It makes for healthier, happier animals and tastier, more nourishing eggs and dairy.

A message from the farmer that raised the chickens that laid these eggs by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

After consulting a few recipes, I adapted the one I found on my friend Jen's wonderful blog, Use Real Butter which comes via Elegantly Easy Creme Brulee & Other Custard Desserts by Debbie Puente.

Ingredients for crème brûlée by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

If you're not already a fan of Use Real Butter, check it out - everything is delicious and the photography is awe-inspiring. Here is one of her beautiful shots of sunset on the trail.

Sunset on the trail by Jennifer Yu copyright 2014

I've never actually met Jen but have gotten to know her a little via Facebook - she's an adventurous and exacting chef, incredible photographer of nature and food, a cancer survivor, and a serious skier who delights in all the snow that regularly gets dumped on her home in Colorado.

Whisking the egg yolks by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

The only real changes I made to the original recipe were to add a pinch of salt and to top these beauties with maple sugar instead of turbinado or brown sugar thanks to a suggestion from my friend, Lynn.

Custards in their water bath in the oven by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

I love all things maple and am always happy to give a little nod to my lovely corner of the world where the sugar maple sap is already flowing whenever the temperature gets above freezing. I've also added a bit more detail to the directions for any of you who are newbies like I was.

A maple sugar leaf by Eve Fox the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

When I set out to make these, I discovered that I am woefully understocked in the ramekin department so I made a quick trip next door to raid my mom-in-law's cupboards. But you can use any small, oven-safe bowl or cup you like.

Crème brûlées covered with crumbled maple sugar by Eve Fox the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Although crème brûlée feels like winter comfort fare to me, I am also really looking forward to making it with some of the lavender that grows in our yard come summer.

Caramelizing the sugar on the tops of the maple crème brûlée by Eve Fox the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

I am also intrigued by the yummy-sounding lime crème brûlée my friend Susan at On Rue Tatin makes. So many possibilities, so few ramekins. I may have to invest in a few of my own...

Maple crème brûlée by Eve Fox the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

We're getting another 2-4 inches on top of the 18 or so inches we have out there already so this seems like the perfect time for these. Enjoy!

Maple crème brûlée by Eve Fox the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Maple Crème Brûlée
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

* 8 egg yolks
* 1/3 cup granulated sugar
* 2 cups heavy cream
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* a pinch of sea salt
* 1/4 cup maple sugar (for the tops - you can also substitute turbinado or brown sugar if you don't want to go the maple route)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and pinch of salt together in a medium bowl until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add the cream and vanilla and whisk until well-combined.

2. Divide the mixture evenly between 6 ramekins or custard cups (if you're using tiny ramekins you may get more than 6 out of this recipe, and fewer than 6 if you're using big cups.) Place the ramekins in a large baking dish, making sure that they do not touch each other or the edges of the dish - I didn't have any single dish that was big enough to hold them all so I used two baking dishes - and then pour an inch or so of water into the dish, being careful not to get any water into the ramekins.

3. Bake until the custard is set around the edges, but still loose in the center (just give the dish a gentle shake with your pot-holdered hand to see if they still jiggle a little bit) for between 40-60 minutes.

4. Once the custard is set, remove them from the oven and let them sit out in the water bath until fully cooled. Remove the cups from the water bath and chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

5. When you're ready to serve these treats, remove them from the fridge and use a paper towel or kitchen towel to dab any condensation off the tops of the creme. Spread a thin coating of maple sugar over each custard - enough to cover it evenly but it should not be thick. Set the oven to broil and put the ramekins on a baking sheet right underneath the broiler. Broil the sugar until caramelized and serve. Be very careful not to burn the sugar - it's all too easy to walk away and forget about them. If you're concerned about keeping the custards cool you can either refrigerate them again after you caramelize the sugar (leave yourself a good 35-40 minutes extra if you want to handle it this way) or you can place them in an ice water bath while you're caramelizing the sugar.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bee Mine? Show Pollinators Some Love This Valentine's Day

Those of you who have not been living under a rock for the past couple of years already know that hives are increasingly not abuzz with, well, anything because honey bees have been dying off at shocking rates for the past eight years.

Although no one knows the exact cause(s) of colony collapse disorder for certain, more and more scientific data points the finger at a new, extremely wide-spread class of toxic pesticides called neonicotinoids or neonics, for short. 

At high doses, neonics can kill bees outright. At low doses, they weaken their immune systems and impair critical brain functions, making it hard for bees to find their food or remember how to get back to the hive. Neonics also remain in the plants and the soil of our gardens for months or even years, continuing to poison bees.

Dead bee by Maury McCown via Flickr
In May, the EU placed a two-year ban on the three most widely-used neonics in an attempt to give their bee populations a chance to recover while they gain more information about the effects of these pesticides.

But so far, the U.S. response has been to pretend the fact that our honey bees are dying in droves is not a huge, food security and ecosystem-threatening problem. Clearly, a brilliant strategy...

It gets a little worse (but don't despair, I will get to the optimistic part in a moment, promise!), a recent report found bee-killing pesticides in more than half of the “bee-friendly” plants sold at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s -- with no warning to consumers.

This means that many people who’ve been trying to help by filling their yards and gardens with bee-friendly plants have been unintentionally poisoning the very bees they’re trying to protect. Oh, the humanity!!! If it weren't so sad, it would definitely be funny.

But before you start thinking up ways to get EU citizenship, I want to share a simple way you can help the bees this week. Join the national swarm for pollinators by asking Home Depot and Lowe's to stop selling these bee-killing pesticides.

Show Bees Some Love. Tell Home Depot & Lowe's to Stop Selling Bee Killing Pesticides.

This will help and it is really easy - it'll take less than two minutes to send your message. And if you're feeling extra fired up, you can also call Home Depot (1-800-466-3337) and Lowe's (1-800-445-6937) to make sure they get the message.

Then please share the campaign to "build the buzz" this week. And stay tuned - there are some other great opportunities to get involved in helping honey bees coming up very soon.

Awareness is growing and I think we can turn the tide soon and convince our government to follow the EU's lead if enough of us get involved.
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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Miso-Sesame Broccoli Sweet Potato Rice Bowl

I made this for dinner earlier this week and it was a hit! Warm and filling, with a great mix of flavors - savory and sweet with that wonderful umami the miso brings to the equation.

Miso Broccoli Sweet Potato Rice Bowl by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

The inspiration for this came from my coworker, Anne who emailed me the link to Smitten Kitchen's recipe as part of an ongoing group conversation about good ways to use miso paste. Deb at Smitten Kitchen adapted Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe on Goop and I am adapting it still further to reincorporate the idea of serving it over greens and rice.

I used my new favorite rice, Lundberg Farm's Black Japonica. Isn't it beautiful?

Lundberg Farms' Black Japonica rice by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

A couple bunches of lovely organic broccoli.

Organic broccoli by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Two big, organic yams.

Peeling the sweet potatoes by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Baby spinach, a mellow, white miso, fresh ginger, garlic and a few other things to round out the dressing.

Ingredients for the miso roasted veggie rice bowl by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

A bit of chopping and the trays of broccoli and sweet potato were ready for roasting.

Roasting the broccoli by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

The yams went into the oven first since they needed more roasting time. When it was time to flip them, the broccoli florets followed.

Roasting the sweet potatoes by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Meanwhile, the rice was cooking. Everything was done at the same time and then it was time to build the bowls. First rice, then some spinach - the heat of the rice and of the roasted vegetables combine to wilt it a little which is nice. Then the miso dressing - no skimping! - and a topping of toasted sesame seeds to add a little, nutty, fragrant crunch.


Miso Broccoli Sweet Potato Rice Bowl adapted from Goop and Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4

Ingredients

For the bowl
* 1 cup dried rice or another cooking grain of your choice
* 2 sweet organic potatoes
* 1 large bunch of organic broccoli
* 1 to 2 Tbsps olive oil
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 2-3 cups organic baby spinach or other greens
* 2 tsps sesame seeds (either white or black or both!)

For the dressing
* 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
* 1 small garlic clove, minced
* 2 Tbsps mild, white or yellow miso
* 2 Tbsps tahini (substitute almond or sunflower butter if you don't have tahini)
* 1 Tbsp honey
* 1/4 cup rice vinegar
* 2 Tbsps toasted sesame oil
* 2 Tbsps olive oil

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the rice according to the directions on the package (or in your head if you know that sort of thing by heart.)

2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into a 1-inch dice. Rinse the broccoli well and trim the tough ends off the stalks with a sharp knife. Cut the florets into bite-sized pieces then peel the woody parts off the stems and cut them into chunks for roasting.

3. Toss the broccoli pieces and sweet potato pieces with a generous helping of olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Lay the sweet potatoes out on one of the trays in a single layer and do the same with the broccoli on the other tray and set that one aside. Put the sweet potato tray in the oven and roast for 20 minutes - the chunks should be browned on the underside. Then flip the chunks and return to the oven and also put the tray of broccoli in the oven at the same time. Roast both trays for another 10-20 minutes until the broccoli is browned at the edges and the sweet potatoes should be bronzed and tender. If they appear to be cooking unevenly at the 10 minute mark, give them a stir and flip and cook a little longer.

4. While the veggies are roasting, make the miso dressing: combine everything in a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides once. Taste and adjust ingredients, if needed. I also ended up adding a little hot water at the end since my dressing was really thick and hard to pour.

5. Also while the veggies are roasting, toast the sesame seeds over medium to low heat in a small skillet until fragrant and then remove from the heat and let cool.

6. Now it's time to build your bowls! Scoop rice into each bowl then add the baby spinach and toss in the roasted vegetables. Drizzle the dressing over everything and then top with the toasted sesame seeds. Put the dressing out so that people can add more to their own bowl if they'd like.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Crowd Pleaser! Broccoli with Lemon Garlic Butter

Our cook and maid seem to have run off. There's also no sign of the nanny, the butler, the gardener, the butler or the chauffeur. It's so hard to find good help these days...

Lemon Garlic Broccoli by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

As a result, weeknight meals are usually rushed, chaotic affairs. I'm always on the hunt for recipes that are quick and simple enough to actually make and enjoy. So I was pleased to discover this simple broccoli recipe.

Broccoli, lemon and garlic by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Lemon, garlic, butter and salt (how can you miss?!) give the nicely steamed broccoli a pretty stellar coating. If you're lucky, the broccoli will also be naturally sweet - the cold weather actually helps to concentrate the natural sweetness in some veggies like broccoli and brussels sprouts.

She's chopping broccoli by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014
I think of this as the "She's chopping broccoli" pic - I was a big Dana Carvey fan as a teenager.

I made this for dinner last night to great acclaim. Our younger son could not get enough, shoveling it  into his mouth with both hands, and our older son (the picky eater) refused to eat anything but the broccoli. I did have to feed it to him but that is par for the course most of the time (it's just one of my many duties as head housemaid) and no reflection on how much he liked it.

Broccoli in the steamer pot by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Although taste is almost always my primary concern, broccoli and its kin, the cruciferous vegetables also pack a seriously healthy punch - they've got lots of vitamin C, fiber, B vitamins, selenium, and other stuff that is supposed to help boost your immune system and prevent cancer. What's not to love? Unless you are one of those people who absolutely hate broccoli, in which case, this may not be the best dish for you.

Squeezing lemon over the broccoli by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Try not to overcook the broccoli (something I struggle with given the myriad distractions of cooking with two little kids around). You want to find that magical window between too raw and too cooked when it is still perfectly toothsome and nice and green. If you think you're on the edge, you can also "shock" the broccoli in some ice water to completely stop it from cooking.

Lemon Garlic Broccoli by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

If you happen to have a picky eater of your own, it may help to play up the "tree" aspect of broccoli to capture their imagination and distract them from the fact that they are eating a healthy vegetable. Enjoy!

Broccoli with Lemon-Garlic Butter
Serves 4

Ingredients

* 2 large heads of organic broccoli
* 2 cloves of garlic
* 2 Tbsps organic butter (you can use olive oil if you don't eat dairy)
* Juice of half a lemon
* Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Rinse and trim the broccoli. Don't make the mistake of throwing the stems away! They're just as tasty and nutritious as the "tree tops" are. Just cut the bottoms and any tough parts away.

2. Steam the broccoli until just fork tender but still very green - about 3-5 minutes.

3. While it's steaming, chop or press two cloves of garlic and saute them in some butter and olive oil.

4. Remove the broccoli from the steamer and toss it gently with the garlic butter. Squeeze half a lemon over top and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Then eat!

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sweet Potato Wedges With Tangy Lime Mayo

I made these on a whim to go with spiced lamb burgers last weekend. We were having some new friends over for dinner and the kitchen was in a typical state of chaos.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Zesty Lime Sriracha Mayo by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Younger child was enthusiastically yanking drawers and cabinets open and pulling things out as fast as he could and older child was running back and forth from the front door to the living room making farting noises.

I was trying to avoid stepping on either of them while simultaneously scraping hardened smears of avocado mixed with dried yogurt and a fine dust of crushed cereal off the table and attempting to get the dinner together. Husband was trying to find a new (undisclosed) location in which to dump the jumble of crayons, pacifiers, Lego space shuttle parts and crumpled drawings (of space shuttles) that usually covers our table before our guests arrived.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Zesty Lime Sriracha Mayo by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

I had clipped the recipe from an issue of Bon Appetit at some point before I let my subscription lapse (all those magazines piling up makes me feel guilty and wasteful) and decided very last minute that tonight was the night.

The fact that I was able to follow the recipe speaks to how simple it is as I was pretty distracted between the kids, trying to make an herb-yogurt sauce, getting the burger fixings together and shaping the lamb burger patties.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Zesty Lime Sriracha Mayo by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

They almost seemed to make themselves (why can't more things be like that?) And the combination of the sweet, crispy, salty potatoes with the tangy, rich mayonnaise is pretty incredible. I felt a little like the messiah.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Zesty Lime Sriracha Mayo by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

In fact, they were so tasty that we made them again a few days later with a couple of purple skinned, yellow fleshed Japanese sweet potatoes. They were harder to manipulate than the Garnet yams had been - stuck to the tray more and were a challenge to flip - but so delicious! I have a feeling we will be making these again very soon.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Zesty Lime Sriracha Mayo by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Sweet Potato Wedges with Tangy Lime Mayo adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 4 as a side

Ingredients

* 3 sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
* 2 Tbsps vegetable oil (peanut is a good choice and so is rice bran as they both have a high smoke point)
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* 1/3 cup mayonnaise
* teeny squirt of sriracha (totally optional)
* 1/4 tsp lime zest
* 2 tsps fresh lime juice

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes.

2. Slice them into wedges - do your best to split them into similarly sized pieces so they'll cook evenly. Toss the wedges in a metal bowl with the oil, kosher salt, black pepper, and a little bit of ground cumin.

3. Place the oiled wedges on a heavy baking tray, making sure to place them in a single layer and laying the larger, thicker pieces around the outside edge as they're better able to withstand the higher heat than the smaller, thinner pieces. Pop them into the oven and roast, turning once, for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and crisped on the outsides.

4. While they're baking, whisk the mayonnaise, lime zest, lime juice and optional sriracha together and add sea salt to taste. Move the fries to a platter and serve with the mayo.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Lovely Lentil Salad

This salad is like a fine wine, it improves with time. Although it's delicious right away, it tastes even better the next day when all the good flavors have had a chance to get to know one another a little better (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and soak into the lentils in a truly delightful way.

Lentil Salad by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

The recipe comes by way of my beloved aunt Maggie. Technically, she's actually my husband's aunt but I decided early on in our relationship that there would be nothing "in-law" about it. She's one of those wonderful individuals who likes to get her hands dirty - raising her own lambs and chickens (and killing 'em, too), growing her own food, tapping her own maple trees, canning her own tomatoes - you get the picture. Maggie is a rare soul - she's full of life, full of fun, down to earth, creative, loyal,  a ready listener, and a great cook, of course.

Here she is in very early spring, planting peas along the fence of her garden in Vermont.


Unfortunately, our dear Maggie is in the battle for her life right now as she tries her darndest to beat a recurrence of the blood cancer she kicked to the curb about 6 years ago. Please do me a big favor and send her some good vibes to help her get back to health so she can get back to planting seeds, digging in the dirt, and making art ASAP.

Lentil salad by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Maggie made this lentil salad as part of a feast-style dinner she laid out last time we visited - a month or so before our second son was born. The amazing meal included grilled lamb that had grown fat on the grass in the very field we looked out on from the dinner table, baked taters that had only recently parted with the dirt they were grown in, green salad from her garden and culminating in homemade strawberry shortcake made with berries from the farm up the road.

It was all so delicious and the baby-to-be was leaving so little space for my stomach by that point in the pregnancy that I spent the rest of the evening in extreme discomfort - stuffed to the bursting point. But it was worth it!

Cilantro, carrots and cabbage by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2012

As with many of the salads I like, this one is open to interpretation - there are lots of potential additions or you can keep it simple. I had some sweet peppers, celery and carrots on hand so I went with those bright and crunchy additions along with a generous helping of chopped Italian parsley and cilantro.

You could also add some fresh arugula or baby spinach, a handful of toasted nuts, some goat cheese and any other veggies you have on hand that you think would make a good addition.

Lentil salad by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Make plenty of this to ensure that you get to enjoy the even more delicious leftovers. It should keep for a few days in the fridge. And please raise a fork to my aunt Maggie when you make it.

Lentil Salad by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

Spiced Lentil Salad with Currants & Capers adapted slightly from the lovely blog, My New Roots

Serves 4-6 as a side

Ingredients
* 2 ¼ cups (1 lb.) Du Puy lentils
* 1/4 medium red onion, finely diced
* 1 cup dried currants (you could also use raisins or other dried fruit and chop them up finely)
* 1/3 cup capers
* Fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, cilantro, basil or mint) to taste
* 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
* 1 medium bell pepper, seeds and stem removed and diced
* 1 clove of garlic, peeled
* 1 bay leaf

For the dressing:

* 1/3 cup cold pressed, extra virgin organic olive oil
* 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
* 1 Tbsp maple syrup
* 1 Tbsp strong mustard
* 2 tsps sea salt
* 2 tsps freshly ground black pepper
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1/2 tsp turmeric
* 1/2 tsp ground coriander
* ½ tsp ground cardamom
* 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
* ¼ tsp ground cloves
* 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
* ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Rinse the lentils well and pick through them to remove any dirt or bits of rock. Drain them, then put them in a pot with the garlic clove and the bay leaf and cover with 3-4 inches of water. Cover and bring to a boil then turn the heat down and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes. You should start testing the lentils for doneness at around 15 minutes in, just in case, since you don't want to overcook them - mushy lentils are just not as appealing as toothsome ones.

2. While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine. If you don't have all the spices, don't despair, it will probably still taste good with just some of them - for my money, the cumin and coriander are the most important ones to include.

3. Dice up the onion (very fine) and chop up your veggies and herbs, trying to get the vegetables cut to roughly the same size. If you're using raisins instead of currants, I'd chop them up a bit and you can do the same with the capers if you have large ones.

4. When the lentils are finished, take the pot off the heat, drain it and fill with cold water to stop the lentils from continuing to cook (and getting mushy.) After a few minutes, drain the water out and pour the lentils into a serving bowl and toss with the dressing. Add the onions, herbs, veggies, currants and capers (and any other ingredients you've chosen to add) and serve.

As I mentioned, this tastes even better the next day so you can definitely make it ahead of time and just keep it covered in the fridge.

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