"Something with lentils..." I thought to myself as I looked through cookbook after cookbook. I consulted Martha, Nigella, and Tyler. Nothing. I didn't know exactly what I wanted, but I was sure I would know it when I saw it.
My desire for a lentil dish was sparked after making the Pork Tenderloin with the Ratatouille Sauce the other week. I was looking through the Balthazar cookbook a little more, trying to decide what to make next. Near the back of the book I noticed a recipe for lentils that sounded good, however the recipe was for a side dish. I was sort of craving soup, since we are heading into spring and the days of hearty, warm bowls of soup are numbered. And thus began my quest for an interesting lentil soup recipe. So many of them are just so boring - lentils, carrots, celery and stock. Yawn. Plus isn't it a little annoying to have to by a whole head of celery when all you need is 1 or 2 stalks? And then what do you use the rest of the celery for?
Not surprisingly, my old friend, the Whole Foods Cookbook had a recipe that I liked - they had me at sausage.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pound sweet or hot Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
2 bay leaves
12 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed
1 cup brown rice
10 ounces fresh spinach, washed and stemmed or 5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and excess moisture squeezed out
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large sauce pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots and fennel seeds. Cook until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the raw sausage and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often to break up sausage.
Add the bay leaves and the stock. Bring the soup to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the lentils and rice. Simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes or until the lentils and rice soften.
Add the fresh spinach and continue to cook for 5 more minutes (if using frozen spinach, add it after about 30 minutes and continue to cook for 15 more minutes).
When the soup is finished add the basil and season with salt and pepper.
Such a nice earthy soup, what the sausage and root vegetables. The lentils and brown rice work well with the basil and spinach. It feels healthy. One nice thing about this recipe is, for the most part, the measurements are meaningless. For example, the recipe in the book called for 1/2 cup of brown rice and if I had been precise in my measurements, I would have been left with, like, 1/4 cup of rice in my cupboard. Come on. So I just threw it all on in the pot. Look at me breaking all the rules. The measurements I listed above approximate what I used, but you can do whatever you want. Ah, the glory that is soup. Just throw whatever the hell you want in a pot and then eat for days.