Lentil dinners 1

Chef Claudia Galofre-Krevat of “Claudia’s Mesa” carries some drinks around a property in Bozeman. She hosts communal dinners known as “The Lentil Table” to honor Montana’s pulse crops.

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Chef Claudia Galofre-Krevat’s lentil dinners returned to Bozeman this week with an eastern Mediterranean twist.

A crowd of more than 80 people lined up around a table at a property on South Cottonwood Road as sandhill cranes flew overhead. Galofre-Krevat topped plates with the food, which highlighted Eastern Mediterrean flavors, and, as always, Montana-grown lentils.

It’s all part of “Lentils Without Borders” — Galofre-Krevat’s initiative aimed at bringing people together to appreciate locally grown crops.

The chef this week paired Pork souvlaki with lentil enchiladas, black chickpeas and kalamata olives, a tomato-cucumber-spinach-goat cheese salad and a lentil-quinoa tabbouleh.

Galofre-Krevat has been cooking $5 communal meals in Bozeman every summer since 2016, though the monthly events went on a year-long hiatus during the pandemic. Her goal is to bring people together to appreciate locally grown pulse crops, or legumes.

“I have always dreamt of having a community where we do things together — we talk, we promote people, we promote the arts, we promote musicians and farmers and nonprofits,” she said. “I decided I would feed the community.”

Galofre-Krevat, born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia, moved to Miami for college and relocated to Bozeman in 1998 with her husband. Living in Montana, Galofre-Krevat grew homesick for the food she used to cook and eat in her home country.

That changed one day when she visited Town and Country Foods and spotted cellophane packages of lentils of all different colors and varieties. Galofre-Krevat started incorporating the lentils into her dishes, creating recipes that reminded her of the food she grew up with.

When she found out the lentils were grown in Montana, Galofre-Krevat decided to do a little more research. She connected with David Oien, a third-generation farmer from Conrad and a pioneer of the organic agriculture movement.

Oien invited Galofre-Krevat to cook at the book tour for Missoula author Liz Carlisle’s 2015 best-seller “Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America.”

The novel shares how Oien and a small group of farmers in Montana bucked corporate agribusiness and started producing organic lentils in the 1980s. Oien is now the CEO and a co-founder of Montana-based Timeless Foods, Inc. — one of the top organic pulse crop suppliers in the country.

“The business has grown dramatically in a sense — in a small Montana way,” Oien said on Wednesday. “The lentils come from Montana. They come from our growers.”

Galofre-Krevat said she learned on Carlisle’s tour that even though Montana is the largest grower of lentils in the country, most people in the state don’t eat those lentils. She made it her mission to change that.

Lentil Dinners 2

Guests join Chef Claudia Galofre-Krevat, center, for a lentil dinner at Bodhi Farms along South Cottonwood Road on June 16, 2021. Galofre-Krevat organizes the $5 meals to honor local pulse crops.

Galofre-Krevat won two grants from the Red Ants Pants Foundation, which allowed her to introduce lentils and chickpeas to home cooks, school service workers and families around rural Montana.

In 2015 and 2016, she traveled to Ulm, Baker, Havre, Fort Benton and other towns, collecting 5 gallon buckets of lentils from farms along the way.

“One day I was counting them, and I had 400 pounds,” Galofre-Krevat said. Not knowing what to do with so many lentils, she decided to feed Bozeman. She started hosting family parties featuring lentils.

The communal dinners began at home, but in 2019, Galofre-Krevat moved them to a studio at the back of Red Tractor Pizza. And so “The Lentil Table” was born.

As capacity grew, the meals shifted to Beall Park, then Dinosaur Park. The first Lentil Table of 2021 took place at Bodhi Farms — a local eco-resort and permaculture farm owned by Tanya and Rayner Smith.

“We’ve been working hard for a long time to create a place for the community to gather. To create something for Bozeman that anchors it in nature in the face of a lot of change,” Rayner said Wednesday.

Galofre-Krevat said she hopes to take the next dinner to the Hyalite Pavilion on Aug. 12, but she’s still sorting out some details. She ultimately wants to find a community kitchen where people can cook and eat lentil-based meals. But it’s not her only goal.

Weston Merrill, a marketing officer for the Montana Department of Agriculture, is working with Galofre-Krevat on “Hola Montana” — an initiative to bolster trade between Montana’s pulse crop producers and buyers in Central and South America.

“With the help of Claudia creating content for me and with the growers of Montana, we were able to build a brand,” Merrill said. “Our latest video has over 100,000 views.”

Galofre-Krevat said, “If we could just sit at the table and have a meal without looking at all our differences, it’s a wonderful thing to do.”

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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