Sunday, January 11, 2015

Stretching Exercises

An uninvited guest is worse than a Turk. ~ Bulgarian proverb.*

My mother was an excellent cook, although her culinary efforts when I was growing up were mostly focused on feeding nine people on an assistant professor's salary.  She was pretty good at making things go just a little bit further when, as often happened, there were a few extra mouths waiting at the dinner table.

(It may have been the pool table my dad kept in the living room, or it may have been my four sports-mad brothers, but our home was a magnet for kids of all ages. When I was in college, I once conned a friend into baby-sitting for me on a weekend when my parents had left me in charge.  I returned to a full house and a dazed-looking pal who asked me, "How many brothers and sisters do you have, exactly?")

This is one of my mother's more elastic dishes, recreated from memory, and it's also very good.

Keilbasa and Lentils

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 or 2 sticks celery, with leaves, chopped
1 or 2 carrots, chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 bay leaf
1 package of keilbasa, sliced very thin so there's enough to go around
2 cups lentils, washed and picked over
1 can of diced tomatoes 
6 cups of water
Salt to taste

Heat the oil and saute together the onion, celery and carrot until they begin to be fragrant.  The celery and carrot are optional but add a nice flavor.  Add the garlic, bay leaves, keilbasa, lentils, tomatoes and water.  DO NOT ADD SALT YET.

Bring to a boil, turn it to low and let it simmer for 45 minutes or so.  Check it after half an hour and add another cup of water if need be.  You want to keep the water just above the lentils.

When the lentils are tender, remove the bay leaf, add salt to taste, and serve with bread and butter, a big pot of rice, and some kind of green vegetable.  This will serve six amply.

If Turks or a bunch of hockey players show up, add another cup of lentils, another can of tomatoes, and two more cups of water.  Make a bigger pot of rice.

*I imagine the Turks have a similar saying about the Bulgars.


Anonymous said...

I grew up in a smaller family (5 total, I'm the oldest of 3 girls) and this dish was in heavy rotation growing up. Lentils are nutritious and inexpensive and who doesn't love kielbasa when you're a Dutch German family? I make this for the 2 of us in our house and I've made the leftovers into 'soup' by adding chicken stock and it also freezes well, as needed.

Ladytats said...

we ate it too, 7 kids in our house. sometimes it was beans and wieners. I have done the same, as we had 7 kids too. and it is good. Hubs family ate things like this too as they had 8 kids in theirs. Mothers of large families often had to get creative and for some reason with a large family it didn't matter if 1 or more showed up to eat.

Shay said...

Lots of starches...noodles, rice, potatoes.

I think the only frugal meal my mother cooked that I hated was something called Irish spaghetti -- noodles in a meatless tomato-cheese sauce. I didn't like cheese when I was a kid.