Monday, January 31, 2011

French Lentil Soup

Love 'em, hate 'em, tolerate 'em.  With the Cook What You've Got theory, at some point we eat lentils simply because I buy them.  I buy them because beans and legumes are full of lean, vegetarain protein and other good for us stuff. They are the quickest cooking of this category and don't require soaking.  In reality, though they end up on the List because they make me feel like I'm doing something good for me, my family and the environment on Meatless Monday after the weekend excesses (not that we follow this every Monday, I just appreciate appropriate alliteration.)

Though there are many colors of lentils, these little jade-like beauties reign supreme.  They look very elegant, in the truly French way, with a greenish-blue coat speckled with tiny black dots. They retain their shape (again like the French), rather than cooking down to mush like brown, red and yellow lentils do. They can be a soup or with a quick drain and toss with vinaigrette, they become a classic side dish to sauteed wild salmon.

This time, I did the basics...celery, carrots, onions (Mire Poix in the culinary world) along with some garlic, herbs, canned tomatoes and water.   A few greens were thrown in for good measure and to keep from having to also make a salad.  With a little freshly baked bread, it was dinner.  The bread was purely leverage for getting normally carnivorous boys to eat French Lentils  (A microscopic chunk of bread with the promise "you can have more as soon as you finish your lentils.")

Next time, I'll return to making the more Indian-esque lentil and red bean chili.  This seems to pass the carnivore test a little easier without the bread.  But for now, here's the starter version.  Oh, and I will puree the tomatoes if I make this version again.  With the tiny little lentils, the chunks of tomatoes were really an unpleasant surprise to my palate (as well as just one more thing for my kids to pick out).

CWYG List Items:  lentils, canned tomatoes, garlic, onions, broth (from Better than Bouillon), wine, yeast, flour, herbs

Veggie Box Items:  torn greens, carrots, leeks

Seasonal and/or extra items:  celery (I actually keep this all winter because my sons love it and it actually is a winter veggie even though we never get it in our box.)
French Lentil Soup
Serve with a crusty baguette or boule and salted butter.  For an easy alternative to salad, serve a platter of cool winter veggies to munch on like radishes, celery, fennel and carrots.

1 cup French green lentils
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 leeks or 1 small onion, chopped (wash the leek well first)
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white or red wine (I used white because I always have that in the fridge)
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, pureed if you like
1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth
½ to 1 tbsp red wine vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Pick through the lentils and remove any pebbles, broken pieces or other debris.
In a large saucepan sauté the celery, carrots and leeks (onions) in the olive oil until they soften a bit.  Add the garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes until all the veggies are completely soft and starting to slightly brown.  Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes then add the tomatoes, herbs and chicken broth.

Add the vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Remove bay leaf and serve.

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