“Let me know if you need ANYTHING… “ is what we often say to someone who is going through a hard time. And we mean it, right? If that person called you up and said, “Can you bring me toilet paper, a DVD of the Princess Bride, and a gallon of milk?” Your response would be, “Kirkland brand, Blu-Ray, and 2% okay?” But, the thing is, most people never call. They don’t want to bother you, or they don’t want to appear needy… but more than likely, they are so out of their minds with exhaustion, they can’t even make the call. So, when you don’t know what a person wants, you bring them what you know they need – food. Food is always a welcomed gift at anytime, and especially when someone can’t or doesn’t want to cook. But then begins your dilemma of what to bring – as I just went through when my husband told me his co-worker and his wife just had their FOURTH child. First, this came to mind:
But, I’m not sure this family would welcome the bourbon with as much gusto as a few of my other friends. So, I started doing some research for what foods are ideal post-pregnancy and saw lentils listed among the results. Lentils – of course. These little plant-based protein powerhouses are an amazing source of:
- Folate – an important vitamin best absorbed through diet that aides cell development during pregnancy and helps re-energize post-pregnancy. A 1/2 cup serving of lentils provides 50% of our recommended daily intake (RDI).
- Fiber – we all know the benefits of fiber right? If not, let’s just call it the “anti-cranky” magic that makes us feel thin.
- Iron – important mineral for the prevention of anemia. Most people get iron from red meat, which we’ve all been told should only be consumed in small quantities, so to get iron from a ‘two-thumbs-up at all times’ source like lentils is amazing.
And while that’s all good… I love lentils because they are cheap, usually available in the bulk section, and cook fast. Win. Win. Win. Oh, and they’re massively healthy? Bonus win. So if you know someone who just had a baby and needs some magic energy, bring her the green, edible gift of lentils.
A recipe from my new, beautiful cookbook, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli-born London restaurateur, jumped out at me because of its simplicity and list of ingredients that are abundant in Hawaii in the Spring. Since the goal is to give a tasty gift with as much nutritional punch as possible, I highly recommend using whatever green vegetables that are currently in season to compliment your green lentils.
- 1 cup of green lentils*
- 4 cups of watercress leaves** (use the left-over stems in a stir-fry)
- 1 lg. bunch of thin asparagus spears*** or broccoli if asparagus isn’t in season
- 2/3 cups of parsley****
- Sea Asparagus (optional – a healthy way to add salt to dishes, and very abundant in Hawaii)
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 1 Tbsp of red wine vinegar
- 1 lg. garlic clove
- Cheese of the semi mature pecorino or Manchego kind. I went with ‘Manchego El Trigal, 12 months.’ Notice no quantity is listed – I decided you may want more or less depending on the mama.
- Walnut oil to finish (completely optional)
- Pumpkin seeds (completely optional)
- Lemon wedges (completely essential)
*Lentils come in many different colors, but green lentils – are usually firmer in texture than other kinds and hold up better when cooked. You might see “du Puy” lentils, which are the green lentils from the du Puy region of France. Any green lentil will do.
** If watercress isn’t available to you, use any spicy green you can find like arugula or mizuna.
*** Asparagus (another folate powerhouse) is only something I eat in the Spring. When it’s in season, I eat as much of it as I can. Storage tip – keep it upright in a coffee cup with a bit of water, covered with a plastic bag and refrigerated.
**** I used to hate parsley, until I got some from a local farm (Terry’s Berries) where I could actually distinguish its unique taste. This is another overlooked green that brings many necessary nutrients to us, such as Vitamins K, C, and A.
I suggest getting the lentils started and while those are cooking working on the “sauce.” To cook lentils, you need about 20 minutes. Start a pot of water on medium high and wait for it to boil. Rinse the lentils, then drop them into the boiling water. Set the timer for 15 minutes, then come back to start watching and tasting the lentils. They are done when your sample of the lentils tastes like a perfect pasta noodle. When the lentils are done, pour them into a mesh strainer, and run them under cold water (to stop the cooking). Set aside. Refill the pot with enough water to cook the asparagus and put back on the stove.
To make the sauce, take most (3 cups) of your watercress (or any spicy green of your choice), parsley, sea asparagus (if using), olive oil, vinegar, garlic and salt and pepper and put these magical ingredients into a food processor (or blender) and puree until smooth.
Put the asparagus in the pot once the water is boiling and cook for a couple minutes. No longer – as you want to retain some of the spears’ firmness. Once done, run them under cold water to stop the cooking and place on a cutting board. Cut them into sizes you think are appropriate (I use 1” as my guide).
In a large bowl, mix the lentils, asparagus, and green sauce. At this point you can add extra green things like the pumpkin seeds (which I think adds awesome texture, and additional folate!). If you’re giving this as a gift, put this lentil mixture in a container, with the toppings of extra greens and cheese in separate containers. The recipe recommends topping your plated serving with Walnut oil (which is really expensive, and not mega-necessary) and lemon juice (which is mega cheap and imperative to the success of this recipe). So, if you are on a budget, just go with the lemon.
This dish can be served warm or cold, and if you want to be a real superstar, you can serve it with cooked salmon – as salmon is another one of those superfoods that helps new mamas and still tastes good when cold.
Drop off your green gift and bring a bottle of bourbon with a bow on it, just in case.