Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's a great day for lentil soup...

Oh, how I love soup.  It is so fresh, healthy, easy to make, and it really just warms the soul.  Not to mention, it is the best way to use up all of the stray veg you have waiting around in the fridge.

This evening had all of the ingredients for a perfect soup.  It was an easy, sunny, lazing around outside kind of a day.  I wasn't able to go to the store, and our fridge was full of condiments and randomness at every turn.  And I was just plain downright tired.  I looked in the pantry and found everything I needed.  I always keep lentils and at least 2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes on hand, in case I want to make a quick tomato sauce, or like tonight, soup!  Perfect.

The prosciutto in this recipe lends the soup a salty, smoky note which I love.  It can be substituted with bacon or turkey bacon if you don't want the red meat.  Or you could leave it out, which incidentally is what happened this evening..  If you do choose to leave it out, you might want to add a bit more salt, just a half teaspoon should do it.  I am not a big salter (unless of course it is garlic salt; I can't seem to get enough of it), so to be honest, I have no idea how much salt you would want.  I would add salt a bit at a time though, as you don't want to over salt.  What a shame that would be, with this beautiful soup...

If you would like a nice hearty lentil soup with rice, just add 1 cup basmati rice at the same time as the lentils.  Follow the recipe below, but after bringing to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

I like to serve this with pita chips (which are just pitas, quartered and pulled apart, slathered with earth balance dairy free butter, sprinkled with a relatively heavy hand of garlic salt, and put under the broiler for 3-5 minutes), but alas, with the absence of pita in my bare pantry, the oyster crackers sufficed nicely.

Lentil Soup

2 tbs olive oil, give or take
2 oz prosciutto, chopped or cut into bits with scissors
1 onion, chopped; and/or leek, white and light green bottom part, halved lengthwise and sliced (in the case of tonight's soup, half of a leftover onion and a whole leek)
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 celery sticks, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (I like to keep larger chunks of garlic in the soup)
2 cups of lentils
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried cumin
8 cups of water
1 14oz can diced tomatoes and their juice
juice from one lemon (or about 2-4 tbs)
1 tsp salt
large handful of spinach, sliced into ribbons

Heat the olive oil over med-high in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven.  Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring often, until nice and crispy.  Add the onion, leek, carrots, celery, and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the lentils and stir.  Add the thyme and cumin, stir until incorporated, and cook until fragrant, about a minute.  Add the water and tomatoes with their juice.  Give it all a good stir, and set the heat to high.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and cook at a simmer.  Here, the cooking time will vary.  The end result is that you want to cook until the lentils are tender.  If you use red lentils, you can cook for 20-30 minutes, brown lentils, 30-40 minutes, and french green or puy lentils, 1 hour.  Once everything is tender, cut off the heat and add the lemon juice and salt.  Give it a good stir and then add the spinach.  You don't actually have to cook the spinach; it will wilt nicely in the hot soup and will enhance the soup canvas if you will, with beautiful flecks of bright green...

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