Not too long ago I documented the process of preparing one of my favourite frugal meals: green lentil, onion, and olive oil chow. After a few astute gastronomes commented on my Reddit link that I’m using way too much olive oil, I did a little research and decided that indeed I was using way too much olive oil. Like perhaps unhealthy amounts.
Ever dedicated to healthy, tasty, and wallet-friendly eats, I emended my gastrology in pursuit of a truer gastronomy. This time around, I’ve diversified my dietary investments to include a greater quantity of wholesome, natural ingredients without sacrificing quality or price. And you won’t believe the production values!
One to two bowls per day of this dish will make the pot last me 3-4 days. You can make it more or less watery or quaggy in keeping with your personal preference. For one pot, you’ll need:
- 1 pound of green lentils (you could probably use red if you prefer)
- 2 onions (I like yellow, but color probably doesn’t matter too much)
- 1 butternut squash (I’ll be experimenting with other squashes like spaghetti and acorn in the near future)
- Some cabbage (I alternate between green and red)
Here are the ingredients in all their resplendent glory.
First we let the lentils soak in a pot of water while we cut up the squash. The soaking will help the lentils cook better and more evenly and you’ll digest them better. Only after the squash is cut and added do we heat the pot.
Squashes make me think of a mix of oranges, carrots, cantaloupes, and pumpkins. Cut off the top and bottom, and then carefully cut it in half the long way down the middle. Scoop out the nasty stuff and the seeds and throw it in the trash.
Next comes the denudation of the squash, during which process of integument removal you must be very, very careful. Peel off the outer layer with a standard issue vegetable peeler, but don’t cut yourself. I am generally never lacking in solicitude around
knives sharp objects, but I haven’t cut a squash yet and not feared for my fingers. This is why you cut it in half before you peel it.
Once the squash is peeled and halved, you can cut and dice it into little chunks and squares. Larger or smaller is up to you.
Add the squash to the lentils which have been soaking in their little wading pool by themselves this whole time. They may have bloated a little bit, so add more water if necessary once the squash is in there.
With the squash and lentils now commingled, heat the watery mixture on high until it boils. You may proceed with the rest of the preparations while it is heating, but don’t forget to stir occasionally.
The funny thing about this part of the recipe, the garlic preparation, is that my girlfriend was simultaneously working on becoming a vampire master in the Skyrim Legendary edition not ten feet away. To properly cut up a garlic bulb, you will need to separate the individual cloves which constitute the bulb. Put the “tail end” of the bulb facing down on the counter and push down with your palm (which with your fingers will inevitably get sticky) so that the bulb busticates into a bunch of cloves which separate from one another. You’ll be able to feel it.
Once you peel away that soft outer rind from the cloves, you’ll reveal yet another layer of defence on each clove to penetrate before you get to the meaty bits.
Here’s a picture of one garlic clove from the bulb before I removed its hard outer shell.
No, that is not my foot on top of the knife. It is my hand. This is straight from Harry Potter kiddo. Put one clove onto the cutting board, and place the flat side of the knife blade over it. Put some pressure on it, and the tough outer skin on the clove will break.
Peel away the tough outer skin from the garlic clove, which you can see right above my thumb nail, and find the tough dark end of the garlic clove, which you can see between my fingers.
Cut off that tough dark end part from the clove and discard it.
Finely mince or chop the garlic clove into pieces. Proceed to repeat this whole process with every other clove in the garlic bulb.
At this point, the pot of lentils and squash was boiling for me, but it might be unrealistic for you to expect to have the garlic bulb all chopped up by this point if you’re doing it yourself or never did it before. So time your own onion and garlic chopping endeavours accordingly. Don’t put the garlic into the pot yet.
Instead, just turn the heat down to about half of what it was before and let the lentils and squash simmer by themselves for a while. They’re not finished with each other yet, so just settle down. Set the timer for twenty minutes and try to finish dicing/slicing/cutting the garlic bulb and two onions by the five-minutes-to-go mark.
Cutting onions is pretty easy. Cut up two onions for this recipe. Slice off and discard the two polar ends of the onions.
As a matter of habit and OCD I always remove and discard the outer layer of the onion. This might be a waste to you, but whatever.
Slice and dice the thing! Remove any nasty, discoloured, or soft bits.
Alas! these pungent bits and pieces of the whilom whole garlic bulb and onions are ready to be thrown into the stew. I usually put the sliced onion and garlic in the same bowl and then add it to the simmering lentil and squash mix when there is only five minutes left on the timer, continuing to stir the stew.
I tear off somewhere around one to two leaves of cabbage bit by bit into the water about the same time that I add the onions and garlic to the mix. I alternate between red and green cabbage when I go shopping.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse. Behold, the white horse and rider named Basil wearing the Crown of McCormick astride it; and he goes forth conquering, and to conquer your tastebuds. And behold again, the red horse Paprika, whose rider hath power to take peace from the earth, and whose inhabitants trip over one another in discord and fight over this ambrosial seasoning. And behold again, a black horse emerges from the ground named Pepper, who should come with a pair of balances because you probably won’t want to overdo this one. And behold at last, the pale horse of Oregano, which ironically carries not the power of death but life and healing. These four horsemen come at the very end.
Once the timer goes off, it’s done cooking. Set it aside for a few minutes to cool, and then enjoy!
If this post and the dish described within it enriched your life, consider donating to my own little lentil, onion, squash, and vegetable fund! Believe me. . . if Paypal took these food staples I would take them . Thanks for reading!