I was walking through the forest at Parc St. Cloud the other day with my friend Catherine — we walk most mornings together with our crazy dogs — Ulysees, her black flat-coat laborador, and my little Rose — and we were talking about how much money we spend on groceries. Too much, we both said, and agreed that this fall, we were going to try to trim our food budgets.
But how to do this without cutting back on flavor? Easy.
Some of this requires just shopping smarter – frequenting the same sellers at the weekly markets means better cuts of meat, ham bones tossed in for free, or a few extra veggies — and trying to incorporate more meatless meals into the mix. X and I both need to trim down a bit, and I figure this is a win-win.
Way I see it, less euros spent at the market means more to spend on, well, you know.
So, here’s my first Cheap & Easy recipe, an quickie dinner that takes less than an hour to put together.
The cost breakdown:
Red bell pepper (.84)
Cherry tomatoes (1.79)
Du Puy Lentils (2.14)
Tomato paste (.32)
TOTAL: 6.81 euros
Lentils with Roasted Veggies
Makes 4 servings
500 grams/1 pound lentils du Puy, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 bay leaves
1 red bell pepper, chopped in 1-inch pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium onion, sliced
1 eggplant, halved
⅓ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (plus more for serving)
4 basil leaves (for serving)
raita, for serving (optional)
balsamic vinegar, for serving (optional)
1. Make the lentils. Put the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the onion and garlic in a large, deep pot, and turn the heat on medium-low. Let cook until the onions become translucent, 5-10 minutes, then add the carrots and stir occasionally. Let the carrots cook for about 5 minutes and then add the lentils and bay leaves. Pour enough water to cover the lentils by 4 inches, 4-6 cups, at least. Cover, and let come to a boil, then reduce heat for 30 minutes. Taste lentils for doneness and seasonings. Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
2. Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F.
3. While the lentils are cooking, roast your veggies. Put the split eggplant in a Pyrex dish, flesh side up, and brush the 1/3 cup of olive oil on both halves. The idea is to allow the eggplant to soak up all of the oil, so you’ll want to brush some on, let it soak in, then brush on a bit more, and so on, until all of the oil is evenly distributed among the two halves. Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme on the eggplant.
4. Put the tomatoes, red bell pepper pieces and onion on a cookie sheet, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
5. Slide all of the veggies in the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes for the tomato/red bell pepper/onion mixture. Check and if they’re not roasted, keep them in for another 10 minutes. The eggplant will take 1 hour to cook, so let it go another 30 minutes.
6. When the eggplant’s done, remove from the oven, and let cool. Slice in 1-inch chunks, and if the skin’s tough, slice it off; if not, you may just leave it on.
7. Serve the lentils in a shallow bowl and top with the roasted eggplant, red bell pepper and tomatoes, a bit more thyme, and torn basil leaves.
Cowgirl Tip: I served this with raita for dinner, and the next day (or two) for lunch, I just added a splash of balsamic vinegar, which I always like on lentils. A drizzle of pistachio or hazelnut oil would be great, too.