Monday, January 9, 2012

Lentil Soup (with or without Sausage)

Soup goes hand in hand with cold weather. Usually by January in Connecticut we are dealing with snowfall, cold and the need for a warm meal to heat us up. Fortunately we have had warmer than usual temperatures around here so soup hasn't really been on my mind. So why did I make lentil soup? Because lentil soup is made with staples I have around the house and I didn't have the energy to go to the grocery store. Truth. I also had a half eaten package of chorizo in the refrigerator and for some reason when I saw that package I thought "lentil soup."

Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, is making a comeback on Artisanal Food. She disappeared for 2011 and I've been hesitant to bring her back into my life after the amount of butter I was plowing through during my "Ina" phase. We've been on a dairy free kick around here since our daughter was born 9 months ago, so naturally Ina's style of cooking had been banned from my kitchen. When I think "Barefoot Contessa" I immediately think "butter and cream" so I hadn't been reaching for her cookbooks. Well, Ina has the best lentil soup recipe I've ever had and that chorizo reminded me of that. And, naturally, there is no butter or cream in lentil soup!

Another great thing about this recipe is that is makes A LOT! There is a little bit of work that goes into chopping all the veggies for this dish, but you'll get at least two dinners out of it. Add a salad, and maybe three dinners. I'm good until at least Tuesday. Also on the upside for us busy people, this can be made earlier in the day (or even the night before) and reheated for dinner. I made mine during nap and put it back on to a simmer 15 minutes before we sat down.

Lentil Soup (with or without sausage)
Adapted from "Barefoot In Paris" by Ina Garten

Serves 8-10 (can easily be halved if you don't want all the leftovers)

1 lb lentils ( the original recipe calls for French du Puy lentils, which are tiny green lentils, but I usually use regular green lentils if I can't find the French variety)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large yellow onions- diced
2 leeks- chopped, white and light green parts only (make sure that you wash these well. They hold a lot of dirt in their layers)
2 large cloves of garlic -chopped
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp fresh thyme- chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
8 stalks celery- chopped
6 carrots- peeled and chopped
3 quarts chicken stock (or veggie stock if you want to make this vegetarian)
1/4 cup tomato paste (I found a brand that sells tomato paste in a jar.. Bionatura. I use to always waste half cans of tomato paste..genius!!)
2 links chorizo (the original recipe calls for 1 lb of kilbasa, but I found that amount to be too much. You can adjust to your preference, use whatever type of precooked sausage you like, or omit it all together.)
2 tbsp red wine or red wine vinegar (I used Chianti that has been sitting around, uncorked, since Christmas. Pretty much just like vinegar.)

Put lentils in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 15 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a very large (I use a 9.5 quart dutch oven) pot.
Add onion, leeks, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and cumin. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes,stirring occasionally until vegetables are softened.

My sous-chef doing prep work for me

Add the celery and carrots and cook for another 10 minutes.

Add stock, tomato paste and drained lentils.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, for an hour (or longer if needed ). You want to make sure the lentils are cooked well. Add in the sausage, if using, and the red wine or vinegar. Cook for another 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread!
Looks good right?? Not that I'm bragging or anything,
but you see that bread and butter in the photo? We made
those too. Yup. Really easy. My four year old made
the butter. It was amazing. Recipes for another post!

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