The Washington Post

When life gets complicate­d, you can keep dinner simple

- BY OLGA MASSOV

When I imagined the first meal I would cook in my new house, I pictured a roasted chicken surrounded by vegetables bathed in its juices, a fresh green salad, a glass of wine and a simple, sumptuous apple cake.

Life, however, is full of twists and turns. And irony. Two days before the move, I tested positive for covid.

Throughout this pandemic, our family took every precaution to avoid getting sick, but like millions of others, covid found us at long last. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

( When I told my parents I had covid, my mother, with an unusual-for-her wryness, quipped, “Remember when we were leaving Russia and you got chickenpox?” I guess timing has never been my strong suit.)

During the week of the move, aside from the relentless migraines, I felt somewhat okay. But once the weekend arrived, a deep fatigue set in. I’d start out the day with high hopes for all the boxes I would unpack, but by 2 p.m. I’d feel as if Dementors had sucked all the life out of my body, and I’d retreat to bed. On top of everything, the air conditioni­ng in our new house broke.

Thanks to a gift card from my colleagues, we ate a lot of takeout. We also ate a lot of takeout leftovers. My new kitchen, just waiting for its inaugural meal, sat virtually untouched.

After a week, I decided I had to cook something. Anything. I knew that given my limited energy, the dish had to be simple yet delicious enough to create a warm memory of our first home-cooked meal in the new house.

In my heart, I felt like I was letting my tribe down. Didn’t my family deserve something truly magnificen­t and momentous? Yes. And yet here I was, about to make a meal with the least amount of effort required.

When my 7-year-old asked me what was for dinner that night, I smiled and said I was making the kielbasa-lentil-kale skillet, to which he exclaimed: “Yum! I love that dish so much!” (This is not the kind of enthusiasm my kid shows for many things.)

While I was feeling ho-hum about my low-effort cooking, my kid was positively levitating with joy.

This is the kind of dish that’s so helpful to have in my back pocket.

You start out by browning kielbasa slices in the skillet, then toss in the lentils, stirring here and there, until warmed through. Then you add handfuls of chopped kale (this time I bought a bag of pre-chopped kale at the store and no, I’m not sorry), drizzle with apple cider vinegar and water to help season the mixture and wilt the kale, and cook for a few minutes more.

Call it cheating, call it semihomema­de — I call it delicious.

And here’s the best part: This ridiculous­ly easy dish happens to be super-tasty, nutritiona­lly sound, and appealing to both grown-ups and kids. As my colleague Ann Maloney noted, “You could write this dish on a small scrap of paper in just a few sentences and hand it to me, and I’d know what to do.”

Prep and cleanup are a cinch — something I’m especially grateful for given how much unpacking there’s still left to do.

There will be plenty of nights for elaborate, festive meals with family and friends, but for now, this humble skillet is more than enough.

 ?? ?? Humble ingredient­s like canned lentils and chopped kale come together in a satisfying one-pan dish, one easy enough for assistant recipes editor Olga Massov to make as she recovered from covid.
Humble ingredient­s like canned lentils and chopped kale come together in a satisfying one-pan dish, one easy enough for assistant recipes editor Olga Massov to make as she recovered from covid.
 ?? PHOTOS by REY LOPEZ FOR THE WASHINGTON POST; FOOD STYLING by NICOLA JUSTINE DAVIS FOR THE WASHINGTON POST ??
PHOTOS by REY LOPEZ FOR THE WASHINGTON POST; FOOD STYLING by NICOLA JUSTINE DAVIS FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

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