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Not Another Soup! November 16, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, random stuff, soupe du semaine.
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One would think that the only thing we eat around here is soup, wouldn’t one?  While that’s not really strictly true, we do, once the weather starts cooling down, gravitate more toward belly-warming soups.

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On top of that, I’m we’re trying to enjoy a more healthy diet most of the time, and I’m challenging myself to take advantage of the incredible deals that I can find locally – mainly at the public market.

Like a couple of weeks ago when I scored some wonderful spinach – 3 1-pound bunches for $2.  I ask you – how could I pass it by?

PhotobucketOf course, this wasn’t baby spinach – it’s a bit late in the season for that.  Still, it was quite tender.

Basically, what I do when I get home from the market is this.

First, I clean whatever vegetables I have that need cleaning.

Then, unless I already have something in mind, I go to the internet and ask it what would be good with whatever vegetable I have on hand.  Sometimes I’ll go to Epicurious, sometimes Cooks Illustrated, and sometimes, just The Internet in general – and this time, Cooks Illustrated coughed up a recipe for Hearty Lentil Soup with Spinach.

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We all know know I love my lentils – and add them to some fresh spinach, home-cured bacon, and homemade chicken stock?

Score!

Plus, we took this opportunity finish up some dribs and drabs of leftover lentils – so it was a multi-lentil soup!

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So this soup was not only “hearty” – it was easy-peasy!

We started with 3 slices of bacon, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, and we crisp that up a bit – maybe 3-4 minutes.

Then add a large onion (finely chopped) and a couple of carrots (also finely chopped).

Think of it as a good opportunity to work on your knife skills – or am I the only one who needs work on those?

Once the vegetables have softened (a couple of minutes), stir in 3 cloves of garlic that have been either pressed through a garlic press, or finely minced.

More knife skills. . .

Then we’ll add a pint (or a 14-ish ounce can) of drained diced tomatoes, a bay leaf, and a sprig of fresh thyme (removed from the stem).  (The original recipe says to mince the thyme, but seriously? Do you know how tiny thyme leaves are?  I think that’s taking knife skills a bit far, if you ask me.)

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Now, we didn’t have quite enough of the French green lentils – the recipe called for a cup, and I had about half a cup.

And we seemed to have been out of the plain brown lentils (turns out they were behind something else in the cupboard – go figure!).  But we did have some super-quick cooking red lentils.

So yeah.  Once the veggies are softened and the thyme has been added, then I stirred just the green lentils in – they’re going to take a while to cook, so I gave them about a 15 minute head start, covered, in just the tomatoes, along with some salt and pepper.   Then I added half a cup of white wine (kind of a deglazing thing), bringing to a simmer, added a quart of chicken stock, and 2 cups of water.

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Once all that came up to a boil, I poured in the rest of the red lentils – which will take no more than a couple of minutes to cook.  And even then, they’re going to dissolve anyway, making the soup kind of thick and homey.

That’s cool.

I just reduced the heat and simmered, at that point, until the green lentils were soft but not mush – which, it’s been my experience, would take a whole lot longer than I’m willing to spend anyway.

All told, about half an hour or so.

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Meanwhile, I chopped up a bunch of spinach and placed it in the bottom of my storage container.  (If you’re not making this soup in advance, and I recommend you make pretty much all soups in advance, then just hold the spinach until you’re ready for it.)

Once your lentils are at the desired state of doneness,  make sure to remove your bay leaf.   Most recipes hinge upon adding and removing bay leaves. . .

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If desired, take about half of your soup and blend it – that will help thicken it.  We opted not to, as the red lentils had, by this time, all but disappeared into the broth.

Now, remember how we shoved the spinach into the storage container?  Now we just dumped the hot soup on top of the spinach, effectively cooking the spinach and starting to cool the soup down before refrigeration.

Neat, huh?

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To finish, we reheated the soup, either in a pot or a slow cooker on low (our preferred method whenever possible) and stirred in a splash (a couple of tablespoons) of balsamic vinegar.

To serve, we ladled into soup bowls and topped with freshly grated romano cheese – and, of course, served with fresh bread.

Mmm. . . warm soup belly.

 

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