When I originally photographed my lentil/pepper dish, I’d set out to write a piece about how my food allergies don’t actually impede my ability to throw a damn good dinner party. And then I found out I was allergic to lentils (but not to like 50 other things, so I’m not torn about it), so it seemed like the post would be more depressing. And then tonight, I cooked the most beautiful dish with peppers, and I thought — well, peppers are frikkin awesome and the world should know (unless you’re allergic to peppers. In which case, you can totally live without them, tomatoes are fine too, and like really, there are so many hidden food gems).
I do want to talk about dinner party stuff, and I will but I also want to shout from the rooftops: PEPPERS ARE SO PRETTY! And they’re a great food to add to a dish when you can’t add in the flavor punch of garlic and onion or herbs. They’ve got that natural zing, and they make any dish taste great. So, following my story you’ll get two recipes: for lentils and peppers and zucchini pepper primavera “sauce.”
PART 1: Dinner Parties
This past Saturday, I decided to host Shabbat lunch, something I hadn’t done in quite some time. I’d felt like hosting a dinner (or lunch) party when I can only cook “bland” food was something I couldn’t do except with very close friends. But I love hosting Shabbat meals, and I decided that I eat well, and my friend’s visit last weekend inspired me to believe in myself as a cook.
So I prepared a great meal, allergies or not. The menu:
Lemon pepper chicken
Lentils with peppers
Sauteed green beans
Pretty damn impressive, right? Not your usual “Chicken, rice, zucchinni, potatoes, salad” meal. Not that those are bad, but they’re not imaginative. My meal? So imaginative. And it was easy to cook! Grilled pineapple takes 5 minutes on a George Forman grill (longer if you cut it fresh like I did, but totally doable from canned pineapple rings), sauteed green beans takes about 10 (and frozen green beans are pre-washed!), quinoa takes 15, and the lentils and chicken each take 45 but a 45 that you can walk away from and have no prep. It’s a healthy, easy meal and it requires almost no cooking skill because the only additives to the above foods are salt, pepper, and oil (and nothing for the pineapple).
I was feeling pretty good about myself until the actual lunch, when I heard that someone at synagogue whom I’ve never met had asked a friend of mine if I cook foods I’m not allergic to when I invite people over for lunch.
First of all: why are you talking about me if we’ve never spoken? And why are we talking about my health issues? I know I blog about food allergies, but I’m a hell of a lot more interesting.
Second of all: on what planet would I risk my life to cook foods I can’t eat or touch, contaminate my own food and kitchen, risk cross contamination at my lunch, and slave twice as hard JUST SO PEOPLE CAN EAT RICE AND POTATOES! Fine, rice and potatoes turned out not to be allergens — yay — but far as I knew at the time, they were.
My friend responded that of course I don’t cook extra food, and my food is good (I mean, I eat lamb, bison, and duck on a regular basis. Pretty damn good is more like it!). The girl replied that she wouldn’t ever come to me for lunch, it sounded crazy.
Well, bitch, you’re not invited.
Seriously. It was one thing when I was in fourth grade and the insensitive kids at school said mean things. It’s another when a woman in her mid-20s makes snide remarks behind my back about my cooking in relation to my health. It upset me so much. It’s hard enough not to eat. It’s hard enough to feel like a food outcast. But I’ve always persisted knowing the food outcast thing was only in my head.
And it’s mostly in my head. Except when insensitive people say shit like that. When they judge you for a health concern. Instead of thinking, “oh, she cooks every single thing she eats, I’d love to go there for lunch because she’s probably become a good cook” or “oh man, it’s impressive that even though she has all these food allergies and eating is hard for her, she tries to serve other people food — even though they can’t serve her food” or even”damn, that’s a lot of allergies, I hope she’s okay.” It gets me questioning and feeling sorry for myself and I hate that. I’m stronger than that.
I have to be.
PART 2: Recipes
Lentils and Peppers
I won’t be making this any time soon (at least not until my food challenge for lentils proves I’m asymptomatic, right?!) but it was delicious, and if I had to go out with a lentil hurrah, I’m glad this was it.
It’s also so easy.
- Cook lentils according to the instructions on the bag.
- When they are almost done (95% soft), throw in cut up red pepper. Or any color pepper. Add salt, pepper, and oil.
- Cook the lentils until they are done.
Cook time — approx 1 hour Prep time — approx 5 minutes Total Time — approx 1 hour 5 minutes, but you can watch TV or do anything else during the hour.
Cut a zucchini, or in the photo’s case, a yellow longnecked squah or Mexican squash
Cut multicolored sweet peppers – usually sold in box form. I LOVED that my box had purple pepper. Like Peter Piper except purple peppers not pickled peppers.
Toss them into a pan that’s coated with oil (safflower, olive, canola, whatevs)
Stir on medium heat until soft.
Serve over pasta, millet, quinoa, chicken, anything!
You can also add garlic, onion, basil, oregano (all spices can be fresh or powdered/dried), tomatoes, or snap peas. And parmesan cheese!
Cook time: approx 10 minutes. Prep time — approx five minutes. Total time — approx 15 minutes