The thing I miss most about life before baby is going out to dinner. It used to be such a big part of our life and one of the benefits of living in New York, where you are surrounded by some of the best restaurants in the country. We still do it occasionally, but it’s not the same. It’s hard to really enjoy a meal when we’re eating at 5 PM, not quite hungry yet but trying to beat the crowd, all the dishes crowded onto a narrow strip of the table out of the baby’s reach, playing peekaboo with the napkin while quickly shoveling food into our mouths to try to finish the meal before the first scream. Most of the time it’s just not worth it. We did recently discover a trick that I’m a little ashamed to admit. French fries. Order a side of fries and they will keep Gus happy and occupied the entire meal. Isn’t that awful? How did I go from making all of his food myself using only organic produce to giving him french fries so I can enjoy another glass of wine?! Eh, at least I made it a year… almost a year. I feel bad for future Blevins babies. I foresee orange Fanta in their bottles.
I really miss eating at Rucola, a Northern Italian restaurant located in Boerum Hill. I’ve mentioned Rucola here, here, and here. We used to go all the time, but haven’t been in ages – no fries on the menu! Everything is good. The arugula salad, the pastas, the pie… oh, that pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds. But the other day I was craving their roasted carrot salad and saw these little carrots at the farmer’s market, so I decided to try to recreate it. I tossed the carrots in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and cooked them in a 400 degree oven until they were caramelized and tender. I love most roasted vegetables (lately I’ve been hooked on roasted sugar snap peas – so good) but you really can’t beat a roasted carrot. I laid them on top of a bed of lentils that had been cooked with onion and garlic and a splash of champagne vinegar at the end. That splash is so key. Don’t skip the splash. Use champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar – it doesn’t matter – whatever you have on hand. Ina taught me this step and it really makes a huge difference. I then crumbled goat cheese on top, which adds a tangy-ness (Is that a word? Spell check thinks not. You know what I mean) and sprinkled on a little chopped dill. Delicious and simple. It’s the type of light meal that leaves you feeling good, but full and satisfied. It would be better if was followed by a piece of strawberry balsamic pie, but we can’t have everything. This guy is worth the sacrifice.
Roasted Carrot and Lentil Salad
Inspired by the Roasted Carrot Salad at Rucola
- 2 bunches of small carrots with tops
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup lentils*
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- 2 ounces goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400°. Trim carrot tops, leaving some stem attached. (You don’t need to peel small carrots, so make sure you scrub them good) Toss carrots in 2 TBSP olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until carrots are golden brown and tender, 25–35 minutes.
Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onions and season with salt. Saute onions for 10 minutes until translucent. Add minced garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add lentils and 2 1/2 cups of water (Check the instructions on the back of your bag of lentils. Water amount and cooking time vary slightly depending on the type of lentil). Season with salt. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 3 minutes. Lower temperature and simmer uncovered for 30-35 minutes until lentils are tender. Add vinegar and season, to taste.
Divide the lentils between 4 bowls. Break up goat cheese and add to bowls. Place roasted carrots on top and sprinkle with dill.
* Rucola uses Beluga lentils, but my local grocery didn’t have them so I used some green lentils I had in my pantry. My favorite lentils are Bob’s Red Mill Petite French Green Lentils if you can find them.