Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lentils and Friends, or Learning to Trust the Pleasures of Simplicity

There are certain dishes which, when I see their photographs and read their lists of ingredients, I'm less than excited about. Take lentils. Lentils, I know, have been eaten by humans for thousands of years, so we've had plenty of time to learn what goes well with them, how to season them, how to prepare them. And we wouldn't still be eating them if they weren't satisfying, right? In this version of lentil soup, we also have the "humble clan" of onions, carrots, celery, garlic. A little smoked sausage for flavor. I have to admit that I've been staring at this recipe in Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris for years now, and haven't been the least bit inspired to make it (although I have made several recipes from the book and have always been pleased). Haven't I learned by now that the simplest players make the best results?

Something magical happens when just the right seasonings are paired with just the right combination of time-tested ingredients. No fancy herbs or specialty equipment required; you may already have all of these ingredients in your kitchen. Invite some folks over; take turns stirring the pot while you talk and get really hungry; break off chunks of French bread (or whatever bread-y thing you have around the house) and ladle the soup over, topping with Parmesan cheese (if you have it). Ah, good. I'm so glad you did that.

Lentil Sausage Soup (adapted slightly from Barefoot in Paris)
  • 1 pound French green lentils such as du Puy (I'm sure regular brown lentils would work well)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 3 large yellow onions, diced

  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 8 stalks celery, diced

  • 4 carrots, diced

  • 3 quarts (12 cups) chicken stock or broth

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste

  • 1 pound kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise and sliced 1/3" thick

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar, or red wine)

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • for serving: freshly grated Parmesan cheese, extra olive oil, bread

  1. In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

  2. In a large stockpot over medium-low heat, heat the oil and saute the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and tender. Don't use too high a heat or the garlic will burn.

  3. Add the celery and carrots and saute another 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender.

  4. Add the kielbasa, vinegar, and cayenne and simmer about 5 minutes. Check for salt: depending on the saltiness of the broth, tomato paste, and sausage, you may need a lot or hardly any. Serve with a hunk of bread, drizzled with olive oil and topped with grated Parmesan.

Serves 8


Toothfairyrecipes said...

Looks great. I am going to use a can of brown lentils which have been siting in my cupboard for ages, I hope it works.
Thanks for sharing


toothfairy: I've never used canned lentils before, only dried. Let me know how it works out.