Several months ago I made the difficult decision to leave my surgical residency program. For many reasons, the program, and the profession itself, no longer seemed like the best fit for me in the long term and, after 7 months on the job, I committed to leaving at the end of the year. While I talked about this decision to essentially everyone who would listen, the realities of my choice didn’t really hit me until last week, the first in my adult life without a job. There are perks, of course, like eating something for breakfast that isn’t a Clif bar and eating that something sitting down, or drinking two tall glasses of water in quick succession without worrying that I will need to pee while scrubbed. But there are downsides too – namely long stretches of time spent by myself, haunted by the fear of not finding something productive to do or, worse, leaping into something that ends up being an equally bad fit. It’s enough to drive a person crazy, and it’s only been one week.
To keep my nerves in check I’m slowly rekindling old hobbies, doing things that I’ve had little time for in the past year. We’re having more people over and accepting more invitations, I’m settling back into a regular exercise routine, discovering how shockingly inflexible I’ve become, and spending more time outside. Perhaps more relevant to this space, I’m also spending more time tinkering in the kitchen and have taken back the dinner reins from Dennis. Last week I attacked a project I’ve been back-burnering for ages and tried making my own sourdough starter. I spent the better part of the week dutifully feeding my starter once, then twice a day, sniffing carefully each time for the development of that distinctive sourdough tang. I tried baking my first loaves with the starter last Thursday and it was a total flop – no rise. While things smelled right and the flavor profile was there I ended up with two dense dough bricks. Alas. After torturing my brother and his girlfriend with the results of the attempt (it was technically edible… perhaps the soup masked the shortcomings?) I scrapped the rest of the batch. On to attempt #2. To compensate for making Dennis my baking test subject, I have also been cooking some classic favorites, like curried lentils with spinach. This recipe comes together in under an hour and is a great way to incorporate a good amount of spinach into a meal (or to plow through the remainder of a giant Costco bag of spinach just this side of spoiling). This is also one of those wonderful stews that gets more rich and flavorful with time, so plan to make a giant batch so that you have increasingly delicious lunches to look forward to over the course of the week.
Curried Lentils with Spinach
- 1 medium yellow onion, julienned
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- 1 T grated ginger
- 2 T cumin
- 1 t turmeric
- 1/2 t cumin
- 1/2 t coriander
- 1/4 t cinnamon
- 1/4 – 1/2 t cayenne pepper
- 1/2 t salt
- 2 C red lentils
- 1 can coconut milk (full fat)
- 2 large handfuls spinach, chopped
- Additional salt, to taste
Heat about 1T oil in a dutch oven or other heavy sauce-pan. When oil is hot, add onions. Cook onions until they begin to turn translucent, then add garlic and ginger. Stir frequently to prevent burning. When the onions are starting to turn golden-brown, add all spices. Stir for about 1 minute to allow the spices to toast. When the mixture smells nicely aromatic, add the can of coconut milk. Refill the empty coconut milk can with water and add the can of water as well, stirring to incorporate. Add the lentils. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Pay attention to how dry the mixture looks – you may need to add additional water to prevent burning or sticking. When the lentils have nearly cooked through, incorporate the spinach.