The weather here has suddenly turned chilly...in fact there is talk of some snow for us tomorrow. Snow before Halloween is rare...but it has happened. This is great soup weather. I made a pot of this last night and I have to say it is even better the next day.
I make many different Lentil soups but this one is my current favorite and I love that it is easily "tweaked" . It is from Lucinda Scala Quinn's book "Mad Hungry". I have used this cookbook more than just about any of the books I have purchased of late. I like the way she feeds her family. It is very similar to the way I feed mine, and it is nice to have a slightly different take on things...just to keep life interesting.
This soup lends itself to being tweaked. The first time I made it as written, vegetarian. The second time I sauteed the veggies with some finely diced slab bacon I had in the freezer...and then for lunch one day we cut up a Kosher Hot Dog and heated it up in the soup. It was delicious! I also throw in about a 1/4 cup of orzo when the soup is about 10 to 15 minutes from being done. I like my soup on the thinner, brothy side and my husband likes it thicker. You see it here both ways. If the soup is too thick, I just add a little more chicken broth or water.
This last time I made it. I sauteed the veggies with two small diced links of andouille sausage which gave the soup some nice spice, just a little bit of meat goes a long way here... I also made the croutons to go with as I had a little piece of baguette that needed to be used. I like that this can be on the table in about an hour...even though I usually let it cook on a very low flame for about two hours. It freezes well and makes for a great lunch.
There has not been one recipe that I have tried in the book that we have not liked...especially my man and boys.
Lentil Vegetable Soup (Serves 6 to 8) adapted from Mad Hungry/Lucinda Scala Quinn
2 1/2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped (2/3 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced (1 T.)
1 T. coarse salt
1 small tomato, chopped (1/3 cup)
1 T. tomato paste
2 cups brown or green lentils
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 small bay leaf
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
4 cups water, plus more if needed
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
Optional - Garlic Croutons (see below)
~Heat a large soup pot over high heat and swirl in the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and 1 tsp. of the salt. Reduce the heat to low and saute until the vegetables are lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
~Add the lentils, thyme, bay leaf, pepper, and the remaining 2 tsp. salt. Add the broth and water, and bring to a boil, skimming and discarding any foam as it rises to the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. (The cooking time depends on the age of the dried lentils.) Stir in the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If needed, thin the soup with additional water or broth for the desired consistency. Serve in a bowl topped with the fresh croutons, if using.
1/2 loaf day-old bread
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
~To make the croutons, cut the bread into 3/4-inch cubes. Heat a large skillet over high heat and add the olive oil, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and cook until it sizzles, about 50 seconds. Add the bread and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Discard the garlic. Sprinkle the croutons with the salt and serve over the lentil vegetable soup.