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Spaghetti with Lentil Ragù (& banishing the demons)

Spaghetti with Lentil Ragù |
Lately, I've felt the demons rising up, twisting and pulling at my insides.  Jealousy, insecurity, desire, and other hybrids sprung from a mixture of all three.  I've let myself get sucked into the chasm.  I'm sure it's a personality trait, but I think it's also a quirk of human nature.

I've always strived to be easy going, relaxed, and just plain old kind.  Usually I can accomplish that.  But sometimes I get caught up in what I don't have, what I can't do.  I see photos and hear stories from friends going to blogging conferences and traveling far and wide to learn to take better photos, tell better stories, be successful in business endeavors... and it starts to wear on me.  I want to feel happy for them.  And I basically do.  But then I start to feel sorry for myself.  For the fact that I am not able to do those same things.  I know it's not anybody's fault but my own that I don't have the means to take part in these events.  But that's not enough to stop the tightness in my chest.  It's not enough to stop the burning that starts at the back of my eyes and eventually escapes in the form of salty tears.

I see book after book written by bloggers I know, or at least bloggers I know of - and I think "that should be me!".   Voices inside rage "but it's not fair!".  "Life ain't fair, honey.  You tell your kids that all the time, you should listen to yourself."  I make myself take a step back.  Because the weight of these feelings crushes my insides, crushes my soul.  It's hard to breath.  It's hard to think.  It's hard to be creative when I indulge these demons.

Spaghetti with Lentil Ragù |
Maybe you're shaking your head, or clucking your tongue. Oh, maybe you're rolling your eyes and breaking out your violin.  Maybe you've already stopped reading.  I don't blame you.  The thing is, I was on the precipice.  I wanted to either bite people's heads off or cuss them out.  Or both.  I figured, unless I exposed the demons, they weren't going to release the hold they had on my psyche.

Lately I've been feeling low 
A remedy is what I'm seeking 
Take a taste of what's below 
Come away to something better 
What I want is what I've not got 
But what I need is all around me...
                                -Dave Matthews

And I do feel a bit lighter.  I mean, obviously I need to take a giant step back and look around at all of the blessings in my own life.  I need to remind myself that I am happy for others, and that I am my own source of anxiety.  I thrive on stories related by friends who were able to attend a certain workshop or conference.  I take inspiration from the photos and techniques they bring back with them.  I proudly display their cookbook on my shelves and brag to anybody who comes over about how I "know them" (even as they're innocently asking me when my cookbook is going to come out).

So, I bet you're wondering what in the world Spaghetti with Lentil Ragù has to do with all of this?  Maybe nothing.  Maybe a hint from my subconscious.  I don't know.   It comes from somebody that helps bring peace back to my soul.  I can get lost in the cookbooks of Tessa Kiros.  She is my favorite cookbook author and a constant inspiration and source of joy for me, either in the armchair flipping through one of her books, or in the kitchen cooking from one.
Spaghetti with Lentil Ragù |
Plus, it's pure comfort food.  Starch on starch.  The surprising heat of cayenne (which I used in place of the chili powder that the recipe originally called for) creeps into every bite and warms you from the inside out.  Like many of Tessa's dishes, it transported me straight to another country, another time.  A spot of travel that fits my budget.  Plus, before it was even all gone, my (patient) husband told me I should make it again.

So tell me, do you ever wake up to find that the demons have taken over?  What do you do to get yourself back on track?

Spaghetti with Lentil Ragù
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Spaghetti with Lentil Ragù |

by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Keywords: simmer entree vegan vegetarian soy-free nut-free legumes pasta lentils Italian

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
  • 7 ounces brown lentils
  • bunch of fresh sage
  • 1 fat clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • big pinch ground cayenne
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 14 ounces spaghetti
  • freshly shredded parmesan, to serve (you can omit this for a vegan dish)
Rinse the lentils and pick out any bad ones or hard bits. Place them in a pot with the sage and garlic and cover with water by an inch or two. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 25-30 minutes or until just tender. Add more water if it gets too low. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid. If you don't have a cup left, add water to make a cup.

While the lentils are cooking, heat the olive oil in a saucepan and saute the onions until they have broken down and begun to look a bit sticky, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, along with the cayenne and big pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer for ten minutes or so, stirring now and again, until the tomatoes start to break down, 10 minutes or so.

Add the lentils and the reserved cooking liquid and simmer very gently for another 10 minutes, to allow all of the flavors to come together. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. It should be fairly loose (but not all-out wet), if it seems too dry then stir in a bit more water. Stir in the parsley.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente (according to package directions). Drain and toss the spaghetti in with the lentil ragù. Alternately, you could plate up the spaghetti and heap the ragù on top. If using, grate some fresh Parmesan over the whole shebang and tuck in!

adapted from Recipes and Dreams from an Italian Life by Tessa Kiros
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