The Toronto I know and usually adore has transmutated into a muggy, humid hole of a place. But readers, like almost everything, it hasn't been all bad.
Outside, a car alarm beeps loudly and refuses to cease. I'm not generally a night owl, but I like this time -- a time when the city has quieted, and a new kind of beauty appears. It's not an obvious one; Toronto is rough around the edges. It's not easy to love, and it doesn't don the dresses and designer pantsuits it presents to its shoppers along Bloor St.
But there's that adorable, chubby little girl on Dufferin who made me smile wide. There's R., who works hard and talks about waking up to do yoga in the morning; who throws solo dance parties in the middle of service by salsa dancing on the concrete floors of the kitchen as caterers swirl a roasted garlic and dill aioli over tiny salmon cakes. Tonight I met Huiwot, a twentysomething who laughs more than anyone I've ever met and can be depended on to crack a solid joke just when you need one. She also happens to have a special knack for finding appropriate hiding places for leftover pastries. How do you turn your back on a city that begs you to see it for all of its splendid diversity? Sometimes, it turns out, all you need is two cardboard boxes filled with leftover food, a free ticket home, and a funny companion who grows increasingly excited by the possibility of meeting! the! final! four! tennis! champs!
As of right now, I have no fewer than fifteen borrowed books on my sofa as I type this. I'm not sure when I will read them, but I'm looking forward to whenever that is -- and happy that more and more, I am forced to make time for things, a sure sign that life is (!) moving ahead (!). I am holding on to these wings.
On Thursday night, I had the pleasure of attending the launch party of a fashion line, and was, wonder of wonders, the lone woman of the evening. I often love my job. A single girl among fifteen men! Oh my good luck. I also managed to fanagle an escort to my bus stop, which proves that either I have yet to lose my magic touch or have very good luck indeed. It was a fun evening that culminated with my supervisor sticking a gold star next to my name -- like kindergarten, but with booze.
What has been my sustenance through all of this excitement? A lentil salad -- a humble meal for one. I know what you might be thinking. Lentils? Really? Those things that taste of earth and stone? Yes, those things that taste of earth and stone! Before you call me crazy, know that this salad calls for bacon. Let me tell you: my love for bacon is deep-seeded and incorrigible, and I suspect yours might be, too. Hello, strips of crisp saltiness! Is there anything better than the sound of bacon crackling and spluttering in its own grease within a cast iron pan? Especially as you, still sleepy, sip on a cup of hot coffee and listen to the likes of Sia and Ingrid Michaelson, sun dappling the top of your kitchen island? I'm sure there is something better, but, oh, bacon, you come awfully close. Romancing one's self is underrated.
I also happen to be of the camp that loves lentils. French green lentils are the best, otherwise known as Puy lentils, but regular green or brown lentils work just as well in this recipe. Tossed with rendered bacon fat and red wine vinegar, and topped with a runny egg, it is a fabulous food for a roaster of a summer day.
I hope you like it as much I do.
Lentils with Bacon and Red Wine Vinegar
1 cup green lentils
3-4 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
Rendered bacon fat
1 tsp good quality Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
4 poached or fried eggs (optional)
Add the lentils to a pot, fill with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue cooking until lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes. I like to add a dried bayleaf to my lentils, but this step is entirely optional.
While the lentils simmer, slowly cook the bacon over low heat. If you cook the bacon on too high a temperature, the fat will not render properly -- and trust me, you want the fat. Low and slow is the way to go.
As the bacon cooks, assemble the vinaigrette. Combine the mustard with the red wine vinegar to emulsify, and add the garlic and onion. When the bacon has finished cooking, remove the strips from the pan and set aside. Quickly whisk about 3-5 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat into the vinaigrette. Season to taste. Dice the bacon, add to the lentils, and pour the vinaigrette over the salad, tossing well to combine. Enjoy topped with a poached or fried egg if desired, or crumbled goat's cheese and toasted, chopped walnuts.