Frugal French Friday: Slow Cooker Vegetable-Lentil Soup
Perhaps the mark of a truly good cook is the ability to make a meal out of nothing, or at least make a meal out of what is on hand.
When I ponder this, it always brings to mind the traditional story of stone soup, which my father told so many times I began to think he was one of the soldiers (or travelers) who made the soup in one of the many versions of this legendary tale about sharing and cooperation.
At any rate, the ability to use scarce resources to make a nourishing meal is something I pride myself on being able to do. In my college days, it was an absolute necessity; now that I'm retired, it's fun.
My approach has always been simple: When in doubt, make soup. So it was this week, when I surveyed the ingredients in my refrigerator and pantry. What could I make that did not involve a trip to the supermarket? The weather has been, for the most part, gray and damp. Not leaving the house but staying inside to sip soup was extremely desirable.
I keep about a dozen soup basics on hand at all times: Lentilles du Puy, frozen vegetables, stewed tomatoes and, of course, onions. (I have made my own stewed tomatoes one or twice, but I usually don't have time for this, and while I may try it again, for this particular recipe I used canned tomatoes.)
Lentilles du Puy are smaller than ordinary green lentils. They seem to retain their shape and crunch in the slow cooker. You can read more about them here.
I found this recipe online, and thought it was perfect for Frugal French Friday. When I go to France, I stock up on lentilles du Puy and other "necessities" for future kitchen adventures. I had everything else on hand. What could be more frugal?
I did not make any other ingredient changes, other than to use plain old mixed vegetables, which I bought last week on sale, earmarking them for vegetable soup. I did place two small bay leaves in the slow cooker while the soup was cooking. I used French thyme from my own garden and onions that were grown locally.
Prep time is about 40 minutes. I found that my soup needed seven hours to bring out the maximum flavor and tenderness. My slow cooker is old, so perhaps it is a bit slower than most.
Cost: The entire production cost about $7-8, and I expect to get 12-14 servings from it. That's about 66 cents per serving. I'm freezing about two-thirds of it for suppers on cold winter nights. It will be stashed away next to the beef stew and cabbage soup I've already made and popped in the freezer this fall.
Wine Pairing: A rustic syrah is recommended.