Sunday, January 08, 2012

Winter Lentil Soup

    I'm here!! I've quite missed this little spot lately. Sigh. These last weeks have been busy. Good, but so filled with different ventures and events that sharing recipes kind of got knocked down to the bottom rung for a while. I'm really thankful for a new year. I'm deciding it might be one of my favorite times. There's something about a new calendar year that speaks hope to me, the chance at a restart, a time to reflect and consider your life, to think about what you were doing one year ago, what you hope to be doing a year from now. This is a season of intention and motivation if our culture ever had one, and that, in and of itself, is most refreshing (while it lasts). I'm hopeful this year as I press on into a new job. Still nursing, but now in an intensive care setting that is new and exciting to me. I'm hopeful that this year will be one characterized by balance and simplicity and prayer. Those are my decided themes as they seem like what I most need in my days. With so many demands to spend your time and money on so many things, my hope is that I might gradually learn to be content with less, to order my days in a way that nurtures my often tender self, yet sacrifices for the good of others. Life is so hard. But there is grace and God doesn't leave us alone. Well, here I am yapping when we have a delectable bowl of soup to discuss. Let's move on, shall we?

     This is a fabulous soup. I had wanted to make something with lentils as I feel like my mostly vegetarian habits lack diversity of grain and legumes and such. So, this jumped up to the top of my to-make list and, actually, totally took me by surprise (I didn't expect much from lentils)! I've mentioned Heidi Swanson before and must say I've yet to have a recipe of hers let me down. This one is very simple, inexpensive, super healthy, hearty, and so good. My very complimentary sister claimed it the best she's ever had. The best soup, period. I may not go that far (but thank you, Courtney!), but am with her that it's pretty crazy good. Good, easy-to-prepare soups are hard to come by, in my opinion, and this one stands out as refreshingly simple and surprisingly great. Ok, I think I've raved enough. The recipe calls for red lentils which are essential in creating the thick, creamy substance of the soup. Once heated for a while, the lentils lose their shape and sort of blend together with the rest of the ingredients in this wonderful way. You'll see. I found my red lentils in the bagged rice and beans section at Whole Foods (Bob's Red Mill brand), though another local grocery might carry them, as well. Enjoy!

    I'm so glad to be back. Have a few more recipes from the holiday season I'd still love to share, so hopefully will be back with more soon! Happy 2012.

borrowed from Heidi Swanson of
serves 4-6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 1/3 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed well (often have pebbles hiding amongst them)
1/2 cup brown rice, picked over and rinsed
fine grain sea salt, as much as you like

slivered almonds, toasted
crumbled feta

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, combine olive oil, onion, shallots, and red pepper flakes. Stir occasionally, letting mixture brown and caramelize a bit. 
2. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Stir in lentils and rice and let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until rice is al dente (original recipe actually called for 30 minutes. my rice was totally hard at that point, so I had to leave mine simmering for an hour so the rice could soften up. just taste test intermittently.). At this point the lentils have lost their shape and are all blended together. Add more broth or water to thin the soup as you like. 
3. Salt generously, to your preference, and serve topped with almonds and feta.