Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A simplified version of my favorite Winter soup.

I think I made that Kabocha squash and French lentil soup from 101 cookbooks at least 20 times in the months since Heidi posted it. I am obsessed. It is the best soup ever. (Okay, its tied with the white beans and greens soup and black bean soup that my mom has been making me since I was very wee.)But, it's labor intensive and uses a lot of dishes and squash season is over. So, I've re-done the recipe to make it a one pot, one cutting board, one knife kind of pantry recipe. The lovely thing is that this soup costs about $5 to make, thins out beautifully (so you can really stretch it), and lends itself to impulsive variations. It also makes its own tasty broth, so there's no need to whip up or buy veggie stock saving both money and time, things I am definitely short on lately! I've made it three times this week and have had it cold, over rice, with a salad, thinned out with water, thickened up with greens, topped with red pepper purée...and it just keeps satisfying me. So, I hope that if you try it, you'll like it at least half as much as I do.

Necessary Ingredients
(about) 1/4 cup olive oil
2 carrots, 1/4" dice
1 small sweet onion, 1/4" dice
1 medium size thin skinned potato, 1/4" dice (I like Yukon Gold and you could add 2 potatoes if you want it to be heartier.)
1 large clove garlic, minced
3/4- 1 cup French Lentils
2 dried bay leaves
1 star anise
1/2- 1 t dried ginger OR 2 T fresh grated ginger (If you use fresh, add it after the onions and potatoes have begun to sweat.)
5- 6 cups filtered water
1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
sea salt to taste

Optional Ingredients
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, 1/4" dice (added in with the carrots and onions, this will add a rich sweetness to the soup)
any cubed vegetables that you have lying around. I think some quartered and roasted brusssels sprouts sound like they'd be good thrown in at the end.
puréed roasted bell pepper (1/4 cup) (as a drizzle on top)
chard or kale, chopped
cooked wheat berries or brown rice (to thicken the soup and add body)
a hefty wedge of warm bread (because soup is better with bread!)
cubed avocado (because its great on everything)
Chopped and toasted walnuts as a garnish (Omega 3's!) get the idea.

Start with a large or medium soup pot. Heat the oil and add the onion and carrot, cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. The onions can get a little brown, but you're going for clear, fragrant and that good caramelizing smell.

Add the cubed potato and garlic. Stir and cook for just another minute. Do not let the garlic get any color or it will be bitter.

Add the lentils, 4 cups of water and the bay leaves. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Let it boil for about 5- 8 minutes (This is a good time to wash your cutting board and clean off the counter...Or, check your email or whatever...This is truly a procrastinatory soup!)

Reduce the heat to low and add the ginger and anise. Simmer partially covered until the lentils are soft. Then add the balsamic and salt to taste. It is important not to add salt or acid until the lentils are fully cooked! Remove the anise and bay leaves and set aside. (I like to throw them in with the left overs...But, you can probably thrown them out.)Add 1- 3 cups more water (depending on how brothy a soup you want) and simmer uncovered for about 10 more minutes. At this point you can ladel out what you're going to store and add greens to the pot, but I wouldn't put the greens in the soup you plan to hold as leftovers.


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