When Dad comes to town . . .

the credit card usually comes out.  With every visit though, I try my best to prepare a few wonderful meals for my guests.  My Papa is an extraordinary cook, so I often muse about what to make a few days in advance, toying around with le menu in my mind . . . pickly domas, curry, fruit soup?  

This is the man who taught me to have a dinner party at almost every dinner.  Growing up, it was a rare occasion to see only the faces of my immediate family.  A more likely event was a motley group from near (a homesick graduate student) and far (a guest-lecturer from Austria or Vietnam).  And my Dad's nonchalance about cooking for a group and cooking really seasonal, fresh and balanced meals was something I took for granted.  When I also started to prepare food for groups, I noticed that although not always easy, it was always great fun.  In my own organized chaos in the little yellow Portland kitchen, I think of Dad and his fluidity in the lofty, gorgeous kitchen in Santa Barbara.  I don't know of any other man who I can celebrate a find of a new kitchen gadget or the discovery of a remarkably hot sauce or who can commiserate on the fall of a souffle or the toughness of a bread over-kneaded. 

Many conversations of ours revolve around our farmer's markets and what we are having for dinner.  I decided on a ridiculously out-of-season stew for Dad's first night in town . . . I'm not sure why, other than the ingredients conjured up tastes of things my Grandma Ruth made (she actually murdered most everything she served, but that's another story . . . ).  The dish is called CHOLENT and it reminded me of home.  

adapted from VEGANOMICON
serves 6-8
better if made one day ahead

2 tbsp olive oil
1 lg onion, cut into medium-sized pieces
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp tarragon
2 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 c red wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 c French lentils
2 lg carrots, sliced
4 smallish potatoes, cut into small chunks
2 c tomato sauce (amazing opportunity to use leftover homemade sauce!)
3 c vegetable broth
1 c tempeh, roughly chopped
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
couple dashes of hot sauce

Preheat a large soup pot over medium heat.  Saute the onions in the oil until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.  Add garlic, tarragon, caraway seeds, slat and pepper.  Saute mixture one minute more.  Deglaze the pot with the red wine.  Add the bay leaves, lentil, carrots, potatoes, tomato sauce, broth and tempeh chunks.  Mix together.  Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes and carrots are tender.  Season with a few dashes of hot sauce, salt and pepper, to taste.  Garnish with cilantro or other fresh herbs.  Serve with chips, bread or rice.  Feel comforted.

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