Here's the thing about these simple meals. Part of me thinks we shouldn't enjoy them. I mean, come on. In this country we have made food all about the pleasure and the variety. In many places, food is sustenance, pure and simple. Critiquing their meals would be pointless. They eat what they have and what they can afford. Period.
What I'm trying to say is that I'm not expecting my family to jump head over heels in love with these new recipes. They might end up being bland and fairly tasteless and that's kind of the point, you know? (This is quite the ringing endorsement for a food-related blog, now isn't it?) If I come across some major duds, I will not share them with you. I'll let you find your own duds:-).
The first meal I'm suggesting, though, is almost too good to be a called a simple meal. It appears simple, but does not taste simple. I used to make these lentils a lot and then I forgot about them until two blogger friends (this one and this one) recently wrote about them. Reading their posts made my mouth start watering. I added chopped apples for the first time because, well, I had some apples around that needed using and we really enjoyed it that way. If you want to keep it simpler, leave the apples out. This dish doesn't come from a particular country. The next one will. So...
Let's not beat ourselves up if we actually enjoy some of these meals and let's not give up on them if we don't.
Sweet and Sour Lentils (More With Less Cookbook)
Serves 4-6. My notes are in italics. These lentils are served over rice (white or brown), so prepare your rice as you are waiting for the lentils to cook.
1 cup dry lentils
2 cups water
2 beef (or chicken or vegetable) bullion cubes
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup apple or pineapple juice (we don't drink fruit juices at our house, so I just increased the amount of apple cider vinegar by 1/8 cup)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed (or minced)
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
sauteed onion, if desired (I left this out)
1 cup peeled and chopped apple (optional)
Bring to a boil and simmer the lentils, water, bullion cubes, bay leaf and salt for 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. When lentils are cooked, add remaining ingredients. Heat to bubbly and serve over rice. If you've added apples, let them simmer about 5 minutes to allow the apples to soften a bit. There will be a lot of tasty "juice"- spread it over the rice, too.