Lentils: Inexpensive and Delicious

Andre Baranowski

For years, my husband and I threw lavish dinner parties. Bowls of olives and all kinds of cheese gave way to luscious stews made of chicken or rabbit, tender legs of lamb crowded onto plates with potatoes and greens, or delicious, bubbling lasagne, followed by berries, ice cream, and many glasses of cava. Then our son Charlie, who's now 15 months old, came along, and soon we had a lot less to spend at the grocery store. While limited funds have led to some great discoveries (like bluefish and lamb shoulder chops, both of which are inexpensive but incredibly tasty), an invitation to dinner at our apartment means something very different nowadays from what it did in the past. Luckily, there's one dish that costs little to make but is a crowd-pleaser nonetheless: lentils. We've tweaked the recipe favored by my mother-in-law, who makes the dish annually for the New Year's Eve party that she hosts with my father-in-law; in our version, we use French green lentils, which have a great, earthy flavor, along with carrots, onions, potatoes, and three kinds of sausage—kielbasa, chorizo, and sweet Italian sausage. Whether we're feeding four or 14, we always make a ton so there'll be plenty to eat the next day, when it tastes even better. To my mind, the dish is just right, but maybe next time—before our friends get tired of it—we'll change it up. This recipe for brown rice, lentil, and spinach soup, from our May 2008 issue, looks like a good start.