Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Here's that old budget stretcher again. The lentils above are just getting started on their way to becoming a pot of tasty chili. It's amazing the mileage one can obtain from a bag of plain brown lentils. Four cups of lentils with six cups of water or veggie broth or a combination of both, along with some diced onion, minced garlic, a little diced tomato and a few spices, produces a huge pot of lentil chili that is guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart, fill your tummy, provide much needed fiber and even supply the neighbors or better yet, the freezer, with containers for later use.

When the outside temperature dips down, even here in Florida we get chilly, I yearn for soups, chilis or chowders—those wonderful one pot meals that have the dual advantage of not only being good, but good for you. Earlier this year, I made a small batch of lentil chili, using Molly Katzen's recipe. It was so good that I promised myself I would soon make a full batch with containers for the freezer. This was the day.

With such a wide variety of lentils available, red, green, brown, etc., the choice is yours, but honestly for this recipe, the brown, grocery store variety is just fine. I continue to be surprised at how good a meal can be without high priced, hard to find items and also, how easy it is to put together a healthy, palate pleasing plate of food with no stress, no fancy techniques, just a genuine desire to eat well and inexpensively.

The 4 cups of lentils along with the veggies and spices cost about $2.00, yet produced a 5 quart pot of nourishing, tasty chili.

Serve the chili with a dollop of aged Balsamic vinegar, as I have, or top it off with freshly grated cheddar cheese. You might even care to serve it over noodles.

Legumes are a perfect way to cut cost without cutting nutritional corners. In fact, planning meals around beans, seeds and grains will give you a nutritional boost while saving plenty at the supermarket.

Rinse and drain 4 cups of lentils, place in large stock pot with 6 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare veggies. Chop one large or two medium yellow onions; mince 4 - 6 cloves of garlic. Dice 4 ripe plum tomatoes or use a 16oz can of diced tomatoes. Measure out spices onto a small plate (mise-en-place). 1 tsp paprika; 2 tsp ground cumin; 1 tsp thyme; 3 tsp chili powder. On a separate saucer, place 3 Tbs tomato paste and 2 tsp salt.
After the lentils have cooked for the first 30 minutes add the prepared vegetables and the spices (not the salt and tomato paste). Stir and continue to simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Watch the lentils, as they cook stir from the bottom from time to time. If they get too thick, add additional water or veggie stock in 1/4 cup increments. After the second 30 minutes of simmering, stir in the tomato paste and salt. Let cook for another 10 minutes or so. Taste for seasoning. You may want it spicier, saltier or thinner. Add additional water or seasonings to suit your taste. For a smaller quantity, use 2 cups of lentils and 3 cups of water and lighten up on the spices.

There you have it, a big pot of lentil chili for under $2.00.

Till next time . . . keep on cooking.


Asha said...

Joyce,that looks delicious and so nutritious.I love Lentils or dals as we call them.
One of my dals is coming tomorrow called Dal Maharani made by Black Moong beans and surprise! A chili dish too!:))

Freya and Paul said...

I think I would definitely prefer to have lentils in chilli than the meat itself! My favourites are Puy Lentils which I love for their earthy flavour.

Kelly-Jane said...

That sounds really comforting and good. I like the idea of balsamic vinegar with it too, sounds delicious.

Kelly-Jane said...

That sounds really comforting and good. I like the idea of balsamic vinegar with it too, sounds delicious.

Kate said...

I love lentils, and am rediscovering ways to eat them. Love them with spinach.