Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Lentil Soup with Potatos and Spinach

I love it when I can make something fairly substantial just using items in my pantry/fridge/freezer, particularly items I've been wondering how I could use up. Even better if that something results in leftovers for lunch throughout the week (my office is in a lunch-spot wasteland).

It was what passes for cold in Los Angeles today, so I wanted a warm and hearty dinner. Remembering a lentil soup recipe in Cook's Illustrated, decided to give it try. If you're not familiar with this mag, you'll have to check it out sometime. The recipes are usually touted as the best of the basics, with lots of experiments in the science of food backing up their decisions, and they often revisit dishes they feel are executed poorly on a regular basis. Lentil soup was one of those dishes, of course. The key to a superb lentil soup, according to the serious Cook's Illustrated folks, is sweating the lentils before boiling. Who knew.

I had almost everything I needed except bacon and carrots, which no doubt would have made the finished product even better (especially the bacon), but I refused to make a trip to the store. My other major modifiction was the addition of potatos and a bag of frozen, chopped spinach--the spinach especially added a nice color since lentil soup tends to look kinda boring. Here's the recipe (with the bacon and carrot included), and if you want the full-on scientific explanation of which lentils to use and why, check out the Feb. 2004 issue of the magazine.

Lentil Soup with Potatos and Spinach

3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced tomotos, drained
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme and/or rosemary
1 c. lentils, rinsed and picked over (I used a mix of beluga and brown lentils)
1 tsp. salt
Ground black pepper
1/2 c. dry white wine
4 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. potatos, chopped
1 16 oz. bag frozen, chopped spinach
1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1. Fry bacon in your stockpot over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 3-4 minutes. Add onion and carrots; cook, stirring occassionally, until veggies begin to soften, about 2 mins. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 secs. Stir in tomatos, bay leaf and herbs; cook another 30 secs. Stir in lentils, salt, and pepper to taste; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until vegetables are softened and lentils have darkened, about 8-10 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to high, add wine, and bring to simmer. Add chicken broth and water; bring to boil, cover partially, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until lentils are tender but still hold their shape, 30-35 minutes.
2. Puree 3 c. soup in blender until smooth, then return to pot; stir in spinach until heated through. Stir in vinegar and serve.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I love making lentil soup because a) it's tasty and b) it's so utterly forgiving. Some lentil soups are better than others, of course, but it's pretty hard to totally fuck it up, at least in my experience. I made a big batch recently and froze it in Ziploc bags. Great for lazy weeknight meals.