Serves 8

Total cost: If you buy the lentils in bulk or find them on sale (and get tomatoes from your mother’s garden), the price of these ingredients can be as low as $3. A more realistic cost is $5.70, which makes one bowl of soup about 70 cents.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 large russet potatoes, coarsely chopped
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 fresh tomatoes, cored and chopped or 1 can (16 ounces) tomatoes
2 cups brown lentils
½ pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces

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1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add the onions, carrots, celery, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

3. Stir in the cumin and oregano. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

4. Add the potatoes, stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add the lentils and let the soup return to a boil. Lower the heat and partially cover the pan. Let the soup simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.

5. Add the green beans and simmer 5 minutes more or until lentils are tender. Total simmering time is 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Anna Marden