The other day was one of those days where I wasn’t feeling great, I was feeling frustrated and tired. I had read about a book signing being held at a local book store but couldn’t decide if I should give into my fatigue or push myself to go to the event. It didn’t help that it was the coldest April day- which felt even colder after the unusually warm April weather we’d enjoyed. After debating all afternoon what to do, and still not having made a conscious decision, I found myself walking to the nearest subway station on a path downtown.
The bookstore is located in a vibrant area, right next to the flatiron building. Walking up the stairs from the subway and onto the streets of this less frequented area, I already felt a little lighter and fresher. Finding myself a little hungry and having some time before the book talk would start, I stepped into Eately, which I had only visited once before a couple of years ago. With one step through the door, I felt transported into a distant market place that could have been anywhere else in the world. The invigorating aroma of coffee, gentle hum of the running juicers, and rich, vivid colors of the fresh fruit filled my senses, helping me transition into a new frame of mind and a new part of my day.
After grabbing a tantalizing pear and plum, because I just couldn’t decide between the two, I walked a couple of blocks to the bookstore, unable to resist stopping for a picture.
It was my first time in the bookstore and I was struck by how picturesque it is – high ceilings with tall, dark bookshelves, beautiful marble floors, complete with elegant chandeliers and tall, stately columns. I love attending book talks and had been to a couple previously – Ina Garten’s, a library event with Beatriz Williams who wrote two of my favorite books, Ashore and One Hundred Summers, and Jessica Fector’s evening for her book Stir, to name a few.
I was especially excited to “meet” Ella, the cookbook author, since I have followed her blog, “Deliciously Ella” for a couple of years now, and I can relate to so many of her life experiences as well as her food philosophy and love of vegetables. I love meeting authors in person to hear about their writing process, and it’s interesting to see how a person is in real life compared to how they present through their writing.
While I really try to refrain from buying too many cookbooks, which seriously takes major self-control, I couldn’t resist Ella’s new one. The premise of her book is everyday meals, all quick and easy recipes. Even though I enjoy cooking, I am working hard on simplifying my weeknight meals.
The event was timely, however it added a time pressure of its own as it was in the midst of a very busy week. I found myself venting to my mom over the phone about how I didn’t have enough time to cook and she suggested I pull out my slow cooker. Before bed that night I took it out from the cupboard and loosely followed a recipe I had pinned a while ago.
The next morning I woke up to the most incredible smell. Forgetting about the previous night’s prep work, I quickly realized what I was smelling when I stepped into my kitchen. Before leaving for work I turned off the slow cooker and stirred in the chopped kale. All I could think about all day was returning home to finally taste what I had made. Well… it did not disappoint! Almost resembling a stew or chili, the vegetables and beans combined to become the most satisfying, creamy, nourishing, flavorful meal. I am always amazed at how the most basic ingredients can create such different results based on the way they are cooked.
Putting half the soup in the freezer for another busy week, I can happily say Ella (and my mom) helped show me that I don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to have a delicious, home cooked meal. While this is definitely not the prettiest meal I’ve made, it was too good not to share.
Overnight Split Pea- Lentil Soup
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 carrots carrots, peeled and cubed
3 stalks celery, sliced into half moons
1 cup green lentils
1 cup split peas
1 onion, chopped
8-10 cups water (or broth)
1 teaspoon herbs de provence
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups Kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
Place all the ingredients except kale in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 7-8 hours. Turn off the slow cooker and stir in the kale, allowing it to cook from the heat of the soup. A lot of the liquid will evaporate in cooking, so add more stock on water based on how “soup-like” you want it!**
Serve with a wedge of lemon.
*These are the amounts of each ingredient I used, but I really believe that there is no need to measure- you can just throw in whatever you have and it will come out delicious!
** The more liquid you add, the more like a soup it will be. I enjoyed having it more “stew” like and used less.
Adapted from Pinch of Yum