October 2007: Doug's Famous Lentil Loaf

Common Meal
Dinner at Ecovillage at Ithaca

My plan with this column is to feature recipes from cohousing communities around the world to create a cookbook we can all use, with the proceeds going to the Cohousing Association. If that idea seems worthwhile to you, please take a moment to send me your favorite recipe for a common meal. If every reader would send one recipe, we would have a cookbook! You don't have to be the best cook in your community. I’m looking for a wide variety of recipes that work well for common meals of all sizes.

This month, I received a recipe from Doug Shire, one of the First Residents Group (FRoG) at EcoVillage in Ithaca. EcoVillage at Ithaca is a cohousing community of some 60 households in two adjacent neighborhoods on 176 acres of organic farms, fields and woods in upstate New York. In addition to housing, the mission of the affiliated nonprofit organization is to provide practical, hands-on sustainability education and inspiration to people worldwide seeking to live more lightly on the land. Outreach to and affiliations with local colleges have also provided valuable training to future leaders.

This recipe was inspired by one found in an obscure vegan cookbook. It was adapted to make use of leftovers from prior meals: “These can often be added to the dish without changing its essential savory flavors.”

Doug's Famous Lentil Loaf
(inspired by the cookbook Ten Talents)
Serves about 60

8 cups dried red lentils
6 lbs. carrots
5 lbs. onions
1 bunch celery
4 small cans tomato paste
1/2 cup olive oil
2–1/2 lbs. bread crumbs
1/4 cup dried parsley
1/2 cup ground sage
1/4 cup rosemary
1/4 cup ground thyme
1/4 cup garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 4 lbs. mozzarella cheese topping

Simple cashew gravy:

4 cups raw cashew pieces
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tamari
Water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse the lentils and cook in about 16 cups of water in a large pot until done.

Meanwhile, chop onions and celery and grate carrots into a second pot. Sauté vegetables until the onions are clear. Transfer them into the pot with the cooked lentils. Add tomato paste and spices. At this point, if you are preparing a wheat-free option, reserve some of this lentil “soup”.

Add bread crumbs to the pot and mix. The resulting mixture should have some body and not be excessively soupy. If it is too liquid, add more bread crumbs. At EcoVillage, leftover bread from the freezer is used for this purpose; it can easily be grated in a food processor while still frozen.

Transfer the casserole into large baking pans, top with cheese slices (optional), and bake at 400 degrees F. for approximately 30 minutes until the cheese begins to form a crust. (Note, this dish will be runnier than your typical “loaf dish”.)

Optional cashew gravy (delicious over brown rice): Blend cashews, lemon juice and tamari with sufficient water to cover the nuts, until a smooth consistency is achieved.

This dish is quite easy and a perennial favorite. It adapts well to substitutions of other vegetables that may be on hand. Prep time is only about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, including baking. This meal is usually served with brown rice and a salad.

To feed large groups, this recipe has been tested many times in the quantities above and works well. Use caution when adding salt.

Thank you, Doug, for this time-tested recipe! Anyone else have a recipe they like to cook for common meals?

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