Monday, December 8, 2008

Looks can be deceiving.

I have finally decided to post the lentil soup recipe. A good photograph is impossible to take--this Lentil Soup is ugly. Looks can be deceiving. It arguably one of the best soups I've ever eaten and a favorite recipe.

As with most recipes I make time and time again, I tend to remember that first encounter. It is customary to skip the Monday after "musical season" ends, and the Monday after "Fiddler on the Roof" was no exception. I was not in "Fiddler", I was lucky enough to enjoy it (and I truly mean this, one of the best shows I've ever seen). As a thank you and an excuse to get together, I invited a good portion of the cast over for lunch on their Monday off. I made this soup and a Karen Hunter Catering signature salad with pears, walnuts, and Gorgonzola cheese. The meal was hearty and wintry. Like Anatevka.

I made the soup again for a welcome back dinner this fall. I know, I know--it was blazing hot (I was in the kitchen--you don't think I know?). Nothing seems to get the sweat out like a bowl of soup though, besides maybe a curry.

Here, at last, is its latest incarnation. I made a few changes to the recipe, particularly to the broth. Feel free to substitute chicken broth, add different vegetables, and invite a few friends over. It feeds an incredible amount of people.

Lentil Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound lentils (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
4-5 Vegetable Stock Cubes (I like Rapunzel Brand's Sea Salt and Herb)
8 cups water
4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
1/2 box pasta
1 cup shredded Parmesan

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the water, vegetable stock cubes and stir, being sure to break up the cubes.. Add the thyme sprigs if using. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with a crusty bread.

The result is more of a stew than a soup, I realize. When reheating, be sure to add a little water. Also, when you stir in the pasta, you may notice there isn't enough water. In this case, add just enough to cover. Try to keep the recommended ratio of cubes to cups of water--you don't want the soup to be too watery.

And don't skimp on that Parmesan, especially if you have the good stuff. It adds a depth of flavor that is in perfect harmony with the heartiness (but not heaviness) of this soup. That Giada may be on to something.

1 comment:

KnitXcorE said...

sometimes heinous food can be tasty.
i used a strange amish recipe last night. it looked horrible and didn't smell that great but it was actually good enough to go back for seconds.