The season has changed and with it, the menu. After a raucous weekend at my alma mater, all I wanted was to recover with a steaming bowl of soup. Lentil soup is great to make in a pinch, because most of the ingredients ar.e pantry staples. Thanks to their high protein content, lentils make a substantial soup that is a meal in itself. There is a lot of flexibility with this recipe. You can use any kind of vegetables you have on hand – red or green bell peppers, zucchini and celery would all be good additions. While it’s not necessary, I added whole wheat orzo to the broth, but ditalini, macaroni or even alphabets (!) would work. I used spinach in place of the Swiss Chard, but any type of green would be suitable (right now Kale is particularly good.) I skipped the bouquet garni (it was a rough weekend) and used a pinch of thyme and parsley instead. Added bonus – this recipe is CHEAP. A 1 lb. bag of lentils are less than $2, running the entire recipe about $5!
This recipe makes a large pot of soup and reheats well. To glam it up, serve with toasted pita wedges and a simple green salad.
Lentil Minestrone With Green
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt to taste
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
1 pound lentils (brown or beluga), washed and picked over
2 1/2 quarts water
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf, 2 sprigs each thyme and parsley, and a Parmesan rind OR 1 tsp. each thyme and parsley
1/2 pound Swiss chard, mustard greens or kale, stemmed, washed in two changes of water, and roughly chopped (about 6 cups)
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup elbow macaroni or other soup pasta (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan for serving (optional)
1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat, and add the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add half the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir together for a minute, just until the garlic is fragrant, and add the tomatoes and their liquid. Turn up the heat slightly and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the lentils, water and bouquet garni, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add the remaining garlic, salt to taste and add the greens. Continue to simmer, covered, for another 15 minutes. Add freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the pasta, and continue to simmer until the pasta is tender, five to 10 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and serve, passing grated Parmesan at the table.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
Advance preparation: The soup can be made up to a day or two ahead of time, but do not add the pasta until you are ready to serve. Reheat and add as directed.
-Recipe courtesy of NY Times