Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese and a Confession

Kitchsplosion readers want to know, where’s the mess?

Confession: Generally it gets cleaned up before any photos are taken.

To be honest, dear readers, I didn’t want to scare you away. If you saw what the process looked like, I worried you would “x” out of your browser in terror. Even I am sometimes a little frightened of the kitchsplosion, the chaos I wreak while cooking. But today I share the insanity—a rare photo of mess in progress, rather than the tasty dish that ensued.

A couple weeks ago I decided that I was going to prepare three dishes at once: two for our guests the next day, both of which could be reheated, and one for our dinner that night. Maybe that sounds perfectly reasonable for a real chef, but it was an insane idea for a person who gets so distracted she forgets to let the dog back in. (Fortunately, there she still was, sitting outside on the deck, staring at the door until it finally opened. Good doggy!)

It was to be a feat of daring. Three different recipes, three different pots, a gazillion different ingredients, one small kitchen, and one over-stimulated brain.

Usually if there’s more than one dish, I cook sequentially and find ways to keep the first concoctions hot. If I’m lucky, the first effort is a soup that can just simmer away until the other dishes catch up. This time, however, I looked at my recipes and discovered all involved cooking some onions first. Two also needed carrots, celery and garlic sautéed. Do you see what I was thinking? Why cut up onions three separate times?

I knew I could be heading for disaster. I find following directions challenging anyway, even if they are recipes I created myself. Some kind of instruction dysfunction causes me to have to re-read the ingredient list about 20 times because otherwise I will forget to add things or use the wrong quantities. So I prep and measure all my ingredients and line them up ready to get dumped into pots, which is what the professionals do, anyway. Here, though, how would I know which ingredients went to which dish?

Hence the sticky notes. I cut up the onions and scraped them into bowls I had labeled by dish: “squash soup” “lentil Bolognese” (recipe below) and “veggie gravy.” Ditto for the rest of the ingredients, leaving myself three clusters of bowls queued up near the stove. And a whole lot of food-strewn surfaces.

Amazingly, the cooking went off without a hitch. Three successful dishes at once. A Kitchsplosion first. Thank you, super sticky Post-it notes. And thank you, Wayne, for helping me clean up the mess. Here is one of the night’s successes:

Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese

  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, sliced
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped portabella mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 ½ cups of veggie broth
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 3 TBS tomato paste
  • ½ tsp chipotle Tobasco or other hot sauce, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • water, as needed.
  1. Warm the oil in a big saucepan over medium heat and then sauté the onion, celery, carrots until they begin to soften. Dump in the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Add the garlic and warm just until fragrant.
  2. Pour in the broth, tomatoes, lentils, and spices and turn up the heat. Allow the mixture to boil and then lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes (depending on the size and age of the beans).
  3. Add tomato paste, hot sauce, and salt and pepper, and check for taste and consistency. I add a half-cup of water.
  4. Serve over whole-grain pasta. If you eat cheese, sprinkle liberally with parmesan shreds.

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