Today: Amanda makes an easy, wholesome weeknight dinner -- is she feeling ok?
I know it's irrational but sometimes dealing with ground meat seems so much more approachable than, say, a whole chicken or a steak. Yes, you can stick the former in the oven to roast and the latter under the broiler, and can have dinner ready without a whole lot of angst. But ground meat wins the battle for me. It requires no trimming or dry brining. It just goes into the pan and doesn't ask for a lot other than salt and a good bit of heat to brown.
A few years ago when I was working on The Essential New York Times Cookbook, I made Mark Bittman's Crispy Chickpeas with Ground Meat and it was a revelation. To make it, you toss some ground beef and chickpeas in a pan to get brown and toasted. You season them generously with cumin, dried ancho chile, garlic and pepper. Using the broth from cooking the chickpeas (because your kitchen is that efficient), you simmer the mixture a bit, then douse the pot of brown goodness with cilantro, add a little rice and yogurt, a salad if you're feeling ambitious -- and you have a fine and wholesome meal on your hands.
I've since messed with the recipe, replacing the beef with lamb and the starchy chickpeas with more buttoned-up and mineral-scented French green lentils. This is the kind of food I like making on weeknights. And if I were you, I'd double the batch so you have plenty left over for work lunches.
Adapted from "The Essential New York Times Cookbook"; original recipe by Mark Bittman
- 3/4 pounds ground lamb
- 4 cups freshly cooked French green lentils, 1 cup cooking liquid reserved
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 dried ancho or chipotle, soaked in warm water, stemmed, seeded, and minced (or 1 teaspoon pure chile powder)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Minced cilantro for garnish (optional)
Photos by James Ransom