Back in the spring of ’99, after endless days of house hunting, Özlem and I managed to find a 3 bedroom flat in the foggiest and most depressing district of San Francisco – Richmond district, 22nd and Balboa to be specific – just a day prior to getting kicked out by our landlord, who looked like the Chinese twin of Joan Collins. Sick and tired of getting rejected because of our nonexistent credit history, we really did not mind that the house looked exactly like the ones we have looked at over the past 15 exhausting days.
Everyday was a deja vous. Same carpet, same layout, same kitchen cabinets, same tasteless linoleum flooring, etc. Up to this very day, we still suspect that every apartment owner starting from Masonic all the way to Ocean Beach hired the same grotty contractor, who decided to redo all these houses exactly the same way just so he can get an extra discount for his bulk orders.
Anyways, we simply didn’t care. It was still a 15 minute bus ride to our school. We were students on a budget, so we mostly cooked at home. Since Özlem is a vegetarian and I can very well live without meat, we usually settled on mixed salads and pasta. It wasn’t long before we got tired of munching on raw vegetables and exhausted all the possible combinations of salad and pasta…. and I decided to give mom a call. She reminded me the lentil dish she used to cook for me and we decided to give it a shot. After that, lentils it was… 10 days in a row. We couldn’t have enough of it. Özlem named it “Poor Man’s Lentil” because back then it helped us save money and even though the ingredients are very cheap, this meal is very tasty, hearty, filling and nutritious. So here you go:
Poor Man’s Lentil
- 1+1/2 cups green lentil (pre-soaked volume)
- 2 medium sized onion
- 1/4 cup organic tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups boiling water
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (to serve – per bowl)
- 1 tablespoon of crumbled feta cheese (to serve – per bowl)
- salt and black pepper
- Soak the lentils overnight in warm water. Wash them under cold water, drain and set aside.
- In a large pot (preferably a Dutch oven) heat olive oil over medium heat. Chop two medium sized onions, add to the pot and cook until they are translucent. Add the drained lentils, tomato puree, salt and pepper and continue cooking for 5 more minutes.
- Add water (it should cover an inch above the lentils) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, about 1-1.5 hours.
- Ladle into your serving cup, add a tablespoon of red wine vinegar (per bowl) and mix. Scatter crumbled cheese on top and serve.