on the fly: sweet potato & lentil skillet

Funny thing is, I wasn’t going to share this recipe.

It was a random ‘ clean out the fridge’ project without specific measurements or intention. It was just lunch. That is, until Betty made an interesting comment on the blog last week which got me thinking. Do you know Betty? You can swoon over her photography and creations here.

She touched upon the subject of writing recipes, and how challenging the overall process can be. In general, to stop and write something down in the midst of stirring and peeling and mixing and grating can interfere with the natural flow of spontaneity.

And I totally get it.

Right out of culinary school, I worked at one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants in the city. My job was to make the tuna tartare. But I never knew if I was doing it right because there was no actual recipe. There was a list of ingredients to follow, but the rest was done by eye and feel. Bobby use to say, “It’s ready when you can see every single ingredient.”

I give you that same advice here.

To a skillet, sauté diced sweet potatoes (skin on) with sliced leeks. I love leeks. They’re so sweet and have a delicate onion flavor. Add a splash of water to the skillet, cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 7 minutes. Add leftover cooked quinoa and lentils, and throw in some sun gold tomatoes to burst (we’re just about out of those now!). By the way, oftentimes I’ll cook my quinoa and lentils together in one pot- they’re done at about the same time. Then, I keep them in the fridge till I figure out what to do next.

Right before serving, add lots of fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar. Don’t be scared of vinegar; it balances out the sweet flavor of the potatoes. Enjoy this for lunch or as a side dish with baked salmon.

• • • • • • • • •

manuscript |theclevercarrot.com

And in other news…

I just finished the final edits on my cookbook! Phew! What a week. Talk about being precise ;)

That’s a picture of my manuscript all snug and on its way to my editor in Massachusetts. Then it goes to the proofreader (yikes!). Then the printer (yikes!). Then PRE-ORDER! I can’t wait to share this with you all. More details to come…


  1. says

    I love Betty’s blog and I love this “recipe”. This is my favorite way of cooking! It is such a challenge to balance cooking this way and also wanting to help others recreate a wonderful dish. I think how you laid out the recipe here was a great balance, a little instruction and a lot of room for creativity. Have you read Cal Peternell’s book Twelve Recipes? I think he does an excellent job balancing instruction with just going for it.

    • Emilie says

      Isn’t she amazing? Such a sweetheart too. I haven’t read ‘Twelve Recipes” although now you’ve got me intrigued! I’ll definitely check it out for sure- love stuff like that. Thanks for the tip, Kathryn.

  2. connie raffa says

    Dear Emilie

    Your food always looks so delicious. I want to move in and just eat it all. Congratulations on the book. Can’t wait to cook from it in my new kitchen. Auntie Connie

    • Emilie says

      Thank you Beverly, so sweet of you to say. I’m kind of liking the off the cuff approach lately. It’s liberating! And thanks so much about the book- my fabulous scone maker ;)

  3. says

    Wow! You actually got to work with Bobbly Flay? How awesome! I’d give anything to work with a chef of his caliber, even for one day. I agree, writing recipes is my least favorite part of food blogging. Food is an art, and it’s the equivalent of a painter describing “how” he paints and “why” he chooses the colors he chooses as he’s painting a picture. Sometimes you have to just feel it..see it…transforming before your eyes. On a side note your manuscript reminds me of the hundreds and thousands of pages I went through writing my master’s degree thesis (i’m cringing). Only a cookbook is way more fun!!! Congrats Emilie! I can’t wait to pre-order!

    • Emilie says

      Yes! I did! But don’t get too excited- I was a complete fool right out of culinary school. I was over eager and jumped into anything that came my way, even if that meant working behind the line at an upscale restaurant which I totally didn’t belong in! Boy did I learn a lot… the hard way. But overall, it was definitely a cool experience. After all, it’s where I met my husband too ;)
      And yes- hundreds of pages indeed. Sheer insanity. Thank you for your support, Donna! it means so much.

    • Emilie says

      Thank, Katrina! I’ve made it a few times now, and both my husband and I love it! I was shocked he like it actually, because there’s lentils in there. But they sort of blend into the mix. It’s a nice meat-free meal or side dish. Enjoy! xo

  4. says

    I love that advice. Cooking has to be done like that. Love to cook and create recipes like that, the best kind. I will definitely be checkin Betty’s blog.
    Girl, I am so exciting and looking forward to your beautiful book. xx

    • Emilie says

      I agree- I love the spontaneity of cooking. That’s why I have to discipline myself with baking. I’m always dying to tweak the measurements ;) And yes, go check out Betty’s blog. You’ll love it. xoxo

  5. says

    I often find my best recipes are created that way. With waterer is left in the fridge all thrown in together! Congrats on the book, I’m looking forward to it

    • Emilie says

      Yes! Me too! That’s the best way to eat. It’s either that, or run out to the store every time you need an ingredient. and we all know what shopping with little ones is like ;) Thanks for stopping by, Cristie!

  6. says

    Emilie, haha, I love that. . “It’s ready when you can see every single ingredient.” I also love leeks and clean out the fridge meals.. sometimes, these are the best! and congrats on the final edits of your cookbook! I know it’s going to be beautiful . . can’t wait!

    • Emilie says

      It’s true! The tartare had tuna (obviously), shallots, capers, parsley, egg, and a few other things I now forget. It really was great advice. Thanks for the sweet words about the cookbook too- can’t wait to finally share it with everyone! xo

  7. says

    love love love this. simple recipes or meal ideas are so valuable – who couldn’t use an easy, but special meal? i think simple meal ideas are really empowering, too – with a recipe, the measuring containers are doing all the work. but when we’re relying on our senses to get us through cooking, we pick up tips and develop our own sense of intuition and wisdom along the way. this forever!

    • Emilie says

      Empowering. That’s exactly it. I think it’s so incredibly important to follow your intuition when cooking. It certainly can be difficult at first, but when you let go, it’s interesting how things seem to come together and make sense. You couldn’t have said it better. PS- you have an email coming your way! xoxo

  8. says

    So much agreement with everything you have said here Emilie! It can be so difficult to write down a recipe, particularly for savoury dishes, when you normally just go by feel and taste, experimenting the whole time and depending on what you feel like. So recipes like this are lovely – the sort of thing you can throw together in an evening after work. It looks so warming and autumnal too – those colours are gorgeous! (and congratulations on your cookbook – can’t wait to see it when it’s out!!).

    • Emilie says

      Cheers, Claudia! Thank you! This certainly would be an easy meal to throw together after work- there’s only one pan, and from memory, I think it only took about 20 minutes to make (maybe less!). I hope you enjoy the recipe. And thanks for your sweet words about the cookbook :)

  9. Emilie says

    Thanks, Ruby! Yes, go check out Betty’s blog! She’s got an awesome miso apple pie recipe that’s I’m dying to try. xo

  10. says

    Ok I am so glad you decided to share this. I have several recipes that reside right in my mind that don’t make it to the blog because they aren’t specific enough. I think I might change my mind and share them more often.

    • Emilie says

      You should! I thought long and hard if ‘recipes’ like this are share worthy, but it’s just like asking someone what they had for dinner last night. There are no measurements, or detailed specifics. Who can remember all that anyway? It’s just an idea, which perhaps might inspire others. I mean, obviously this gets a little tricky with baking, but other than that I say, go for it!

  11. says

    I remember when I first went vegetarian, I was 11 or 12 or so, and I was looking up vegetarian recipes to make for myself. A given recipe would call for a “pinch” of this and a “drizzle” of that and I thought to myself, “How am I supposed to do this?! I don’t know how much a pinch is!!” But it comes in time. After you’ve been cooking for a while, you just “know” how to make a recipe work. You figure it out. And now I love the recipes that are more of a template, an idea – so that you can create your own masterpiece using it as a starting point. :)

  12. says

    Making dishes on the fly is how I’ve found some of my husband and my favorite foods. It’s awesome to have recipes and to try new things out, but it’s super important to learn how to throw things together. It makes cooking easier, quicker, cheaper, and enjoyable. I’ll remember this combination the next time I have sweet potatoes lying around, and I love your idea of cooking lentils and quinoa together.

  13. says

    I love how beautifully simple this recipe is – emphasis on beautiful! Certainly one to come back to again and again. Thank you for the tip on cooking the lentils and quinoa all in one pot. Yes!

    Biggest congrats on your final edits. What a great feeling that must be! xo.

  14. says

    I love this (!!!). Most of our dinners comprise of something as simple as a lentil and starch – but we hardly ever share these recipes despite how helpful they may be to so many. Thanks for breaking that mold and sharing this simple goodness with everyone <3

  15. says

    I love this style of cooking. Both cooking by eye and feel, and cleaning out the fridge. Sometimes the best inspiration and the best meals are a result of that!

    And congratulations on submitting your manuscript! That must feel amazing. I can’t wait for the release of your book. Any ideas on whether it will make it’s way to Australia?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jennifer! Isn’t it special when you clean out the fridge and whatever you make actually tastes good? Double-duty accomplishment!

      As for the book release, I know it will be sold overseas. When and where is a different story. If I get any info, I’ll definitely pass it along to you. I do know that it will be available on Kindle, if you have one of those devices ;)

  16. says

    Oh my gosh. How could I just be seeing this now? I LOVE THIS. This recipe – omg, I’m so happy you posted it. Your words about the spontaneity of recipes + cooking are spot on. I read through your directions on how to make this dish, and I am so excited to make it. I can just feel your excitement about this dish, and sometimes the ones that aren’t measured to the 1/4 tsp are the best ones, aren’t they?

    Ps. I seriously cannot wait for your book.
    Pps. Thank you so much for the love <3. Your kind words are everything.

    • Emilie says

      Thank YOU for the inspiration, my talented friend :) I love cooking this way; it’s so natural, effortless and fun! xoxo

  17. says

    What an exciting time for you Emilie – Congratulations on putting the finishing touches on this huge labour of love. I cannot wait to support your work and dive into the beautiful pages of your cookbook. And this recipe… seductive and gorgeous. Everything I love about fall captured in a singular stunning photo – you have the magic touch.

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