No more potlucks! How to create a communal meal, affordably.

Today’s story in the Times-Argus is my manifesto for the new year (which is 1/12th past, yes, that’s true):  No More Potluck Dinners.  Potlucks have their place:  Office parties, summer barbeques, that Friday night thing you do to introduce all your friends to each other once and for all.

But DINNER:  Dinner is a worthy meal, the end of a busy day, the beginning of serious relaxing, conversation, and memory-making.  It deserves to be fabulous, to hang together like a well-tailored suit.

When your guests ask, “what can I bring?” –tell them.  See the story for some fun menu ideas.

Soup is another great communal meal.  A steaming cauldron over a raging fire is ancient tradition.  No steaming cauldron?  Your stove will work just fine.  Here’s a soup I love.  Guests can bring bread, salad, dessert, wine.  Simple.  Save your energy for conversation and laughter.  You’ll be glad you did.

Lemon Lentil Soup with Spinach
My friend Maria shared this recipe from a class she took at LACE in Barre. Of the classes, she says, “I’ve been cooking for a long time but I always learn something new, and have loved meeting other members of the community.”  Having sampled this soup myself, I can vouch for it — it’s amazing!

5 cups water or veggie stock (or a combo)
1.5 cups red lentils
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes with juice
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp salt
1T fresh ginger, grated
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 big bunch baby spinach (or chard, kale or beet greens)
2 T lemon juice
Pepper to taste

1. In pot over high heat, combine water, lentils, tomatoes, oil, garlic, and salt.

2. Add ginger, rosemary, and bay leaf and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until lentils are cooked (about 15-20 minutes).

3. Once lentils are soft, add greens and simmer until wilted.

4. Stir in lemon juice, and pepper to taste and serve.

~ I also drizzle with olive oil and top with freshly grated percorino romano cheese.