Documenting the struggles of one woman trying to live recipe-free.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
It's July, and I just sat down to a hot, hearty bowl of lentil soup. Yeah, I'm sure that if you're lucky enough to be experiencing weather that's actually appropriate for mid-summer this post is going to be totally disgusting to you. So maybe you'll come back to it when it's cold and frosty outside? But lentil soup was totally right for this chilly, blustery day in Seattle. It's also right for another reason. Two good friends just had a baby yesterday, so I also wanted to make something that would make enough leftovers to share with these tired, busy, new parents. This soup seemed like the right choice since it's a filling, comforting one-pot meal. It was also a good opportunity to use this beautiful bunch of rainbow chard from our CSA. Lastly, soup also seemed like a good choice for "replenishing your womanly goodness" as John likes to summarize my mother's obsession with soup after certain, um... female life experiences. :) I took a tip from a recipe I saw once that suggested steeping the lentils with tomatoes and their juices as the acid from the tomatoes will help the lentils keep their firmness so you don't end up with a mushy mess. I wanted a balance of sweetness and spice: the base is loaded with sweet onions, carrots, and celery, offset by a jalapeno, fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies, a big palmful of cumin and a couple dashes of cinnamon. The starch from the potatoes helped thicken up the soup into more of a stew, while the chard added a slightly bitter but mostly refreshing green taste throughout the soup. The end result tasted almost Ethiopian to me which added to the comfort of the soup since I've always enjoyed the communal nature of eating Ethiopian food with different groups of friends over the years. To round off this comfort meal, I paired it with my favorite sandwich of late, which will be described in a separate post. It's really delicious so I hope you'll come back to read about it!
1 16oz package of lentils 1 tsp olive oil 5 strips of thick cut, uncured bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strips 1 large Walla Walla onion 2 small sweet onions 5 carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces 4 celery stalks, chopped into 1/2 pieces 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed (because Rike's a wuss about spice, but not about labor!), minced 1 14.5 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies 3 tbsp tomato paste, double concentrated 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme 2 bay leaves 2 tbsp cumin 2 dashes of cinnamon 1/2 tbsp dried oregano salt and pepper to taste 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, diced. 10 cups chicken broth 1 bunch rainbow chard, rough chopped.
Rinse the lentils and set aside. In a big stock pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Toss in the bacon and let cook half way. Add onion, carrots, celery, jalapeno and garlic and let your vegetables sweat without caramelizing, about 10-15 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Add the lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaves. Let the lentils steep in this mix for about 10 minutes. Mix in the rest of the spices, broth, and potatoes. Bring this to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the chard and continue to cook for about 5-10 more minutes until the stalks of the chard have had time to soften. Ladle into bowls and serve.
This has been a year of terrible personal loss and and terrifying challenges in the form of finishing law school and trying to find a job in this economy. So although the world probably does not need another food blog, I started this as a means of keeping my head above water, to keep me balanced and sane, and to keep tabs on my culinary experimentations. The goal is to live recipe free, to be one of those home cooks who can look at what's available in my community supported agriculture (CSA) share box, on sale at the store, in my husband's garden, or leftover in my refrigerator and transform it into something delicious. I'm translating my efforts into recipes that I can look back on to improve upon or if someone who stumbles on this wants to try it out at home and give me ideas for improvement.
I have no formal cooking training. Anything I know has been gleaned from watching cooking shows, reading food blogs/cookbooks/magazines, and trial and error. I can't say that what I post here is worth replicating at home, but people in my house found it tasty so I'm posting it here primarily for my future reference. Also, if you're a stickler for precise measurements, most of mine are estimates unless it came in a package that told me how much was in it.