I am making lentil soup today; it’s cheap and easy and ever-so-homey. It’s what I serve to my parents whenever they’ve come back from a long journey (which is ridiculously often). It’s hearty enough and yet light enough to make you feel relaxed and at home. It smells very good, bubbling away at the stove; every time I make it it comes out slightly different, depending on my mood and the available ingredients, but it is always good.
While I was chopping, in my usual hurry, trying to get it done before my son woke up from his nap (mission accomplished and he is STILL SLEEPING!), I started to think about the old days when I had hours to cook something. I entertained myself by chopping up all the ingredients like on a cooking show, arraying them before me in little bowls and then dropping them into my pots and pans as needed. Very satisfying.
These days, I chop as I go and drop things in the pot as soon as I get them cut up, more or less in the order I intended. If I am lucky. It’s not as aesthetic, but it has helped me in one way. I get those onions in there first, then when they are coated and sizzling in the hot oil, I turn the heat right down so they won’t burn as I chop something else. Lo and behold, those onions get a chance to get soft and sweet and caramelly on the low heat, and I actually get better flavor out of them. In the old days, I would’ve sauteed them quickly and then dropped my next precious bowl of something in right away. Not anymore!
I include the recipe here, because lentil soup needs to be in your repertory. It is very flexible; you can skip the sausage or use a different kind (adjusting seasonings to harmonize), you can use additional veg (like celery); or leftover parsley from another dish.
It requires a bit of chopping, but no babysitting while it is simmering. Lentils are cheap and wholesome and don’t require pre-soaking. It refrigerates and re-heats really well (freezing, not so much), so I pack it into our lunch boxes as well as eating it on the night it is made. Serves four big appetites as a main course.
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 baseball size onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced or diced to fingernail size (approx 1 Cup)
1 Cup chorizo (Spanish dry hot sausage), peeled and sliced into 1/4-1/2 inch rounds (I use Palacios Hot)
1 Cup dry lentils, rinsed, picked through and drained
2 medium potatoes, peeled (if you like) and chopped into 1.2 inch cubes (approx. 2 Cups)
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (you may use water as well)
1 tsp each – ground cumin, turmeric and oregano OR 1 tsp each – oregano and marjoram OR Tbs dry Italian herbs
Heat oil until it runs quickly and is fragrant. Add onions and stir to coat. After a minute, reduce heat to low. After five minutes start adding, garlic, then carrots, then chorizo. When chorizo begins to release its color, , stir in lentils, potatoes, broth and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until lentils and vegetables are tender, adding water a cup at a time, if desired. Add spices at the end and salt to taste. Serve as soup with crusty bread, or over rice.