Monday, December 06, 2010

Lean Budget, Lentil Soup

Too much eating out and too much travel has amounted to a pretty dry bank account. I hardly cook much anymore, so my kitchen creativity is out of practice. I asked my friends on Facebook how they save money, and got some pretty helpful suggestions: make coffee at home, make rice and beans, buy produce from small markets, make pasta, roast a chicken for dinner and use the rest for soup and curried chicken sandwiches, cook large batches of chili, soup, lasagna, etc. and basically eat the same thing all week. A couple of people suggested cooking with eggs and lentils. So, I took all to heart, and spent Sunday making lentil soup. I bought groceries (for much less than where I usually shop!) at Cherry Sprout Produce, a community market in North Portland. A whole bag of groceries cost $18! It seems that normally I spend about $40 per bag. My soup turned out so delicious, I almost cried. I used the recipe for "Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup" from 101 Cookbooks, and adapted it as follows. It makes four LARGE servings. I used less tomatoes than it originally called for, and more greens, which made it even cheaper! I'm looking forward to 101 Cookbooks' new cookbook, "Super Natural Everyday" for more inspiration.

1 1/2 cups green lentils
1 small/medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 12 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water (more if needed)
1 big bunch of chard, leaves chopped into short strips, and ribs chopped into chunks
1 small garnet yam, cubed
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground cayenne pepper, and mild smoked paprika (pimenton de la vera) to taste

1. Rinse lentils and pick over for any debris.
2. Boil 5 cups of salted (1-2 tsps) water in a large pot. When boiling, add lentils and cook for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness at 15 minutes, as cooking time varies, more or less, depending on the freshness of the lentils. Just before they are fully cooked, drain them and set aside.
3. After the lentils have begun to cook, in a heavy pot, heat the olive oil on medium, and when hot enough, saute the onion. After the onion has begun to cook, add a little salt, and some of the coriander and cumin (more coriander than cumin - a few dashes of each to start).
4. When onions are almost done, add the yam and chard stems. Saute for a few minutes, then add the whole can of crushed tomatoes.
5. Add the 2 cups of water, more salt, and spices, including the cayenne (watch out - it's hot!), in waves and taste along the way.
6. When the yams are almost cooked, add the chard leaves, lentils, and more salt and spices to taste. Don't be afraid to salt it!
7. Serve.

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