Sunday, October 21, 2012

French Lentil Soup

I've fallen back into the trap of candy and coffee for dinner, with Cali Burrito thrown in every once in awhile, and this has to stop. My refrigerator is now filled with fresh produce. I must get back into this habit. It's hard though. Anyone who reads this who lives nearby and wants a home-cooked meal, I now have an open-door policy for dinners. You are welcome to come eat food any time. Ever. Just let me know before you show up. OK? Maybe this will help me cook every night. And cook healthy things that aren't Nutty Bars. I'm in my new house. I have no excuse.

Last night I made this French Lentil Soup, and my house still smells amazing from it. It smells like warm kitchens and autumn and rosemary. I ate an entire loaf of garlic bread with it. That's not a healthy decision, but it was a delicious one. The soup itself is not as good as the cookbook indicates that it is, but part of that is probably due to the fact that I could not freaking find lentils de puy. I no longer live that close to a Wegmans and was too lazy to drive to the closest one (I know they have them there) so I just used basic browns. It was alright. A little watery. The wine was a good addition. My grocery store sells pre-made bouquet garnis so that was a nice time-saver. This was good for an October night but I doubt I would make it again.

lentils

French Lentil Soup
The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld

This is not just a regular lentil soup. The lentils may be small, but the flavor is big. It's easy to make, and the fresh herbs and reduced red wine scent your kitchen most deliciously as it cooks. It's an absolute favorite in my household. You can substitute brown lentils, but the French lentilles de Puy make this hearty soup surprisingly light.

1 cup French lentils, sorted and washed
Bouquet garni of 5 fresh thyme sprigs, 3 rosemary sprigs, 1 bay leaf, and 5 flat-leaf parsley stems
6 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into small dice (2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, drained, or 2 medium-size fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups thinly sliced chard leaves (half the leaves of a 1-pound bunch)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1. Place the lentils in a medium pot. Add the bouquet garni and water. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 25-35 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Discard the bouquet garni.

2. Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes and saute over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, or until the onions are softened and begin to brown.

3. Add the red wine, turn up the heat, and cook for a few minutes, uncovered, until the wine is reduced by about half. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes. Cook a few minutes more, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.

4. Add the tomato mixture to the pot with the lentils along with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer a few minutes to marry the flavors. Adjust the salt to taste.

5. Add the chard leaves, rosemary, and thyme and turn off heat. Let the chard leaves sit in the soup for five minutes before serving. The hot soup will wilt the leaves sufficiently.

Yield: 4-6 servings

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