Lentil Epiphany Soup

January 6, 2009

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A creamy and comforting celebration in a bowl … Try to find Puy lentils or at least use small, gray or green French lentils. They are much superior to the larger, softer gray variety. Don’t use red lentils. They’re more Biblical—Esau sold his birthright for porridge made of red lentils—but red lentils dissolve entirely and lack the comforting heft of green lentils.

1 cup dried Puy lentils
3 cups cold water
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds onions (2 large), thinly sliced and divided
3/4 pound new potatoes (3 medium)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water, divided
1 bay leaf tied with 4 (3-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup instant polenta
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Pick through the lentils, rinse them, and place in a stockpot with 3 cups cold water and 1 slice onion. The onion helps the lentils hold their shape. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic.

Meanwhile, in a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the remaining onions in 1 tablespoon oil, covered, until translucent, not brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucier, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, covered, until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and chop roughly. Peel the potatoes if you like, but it’s not necessary.

In the chef’s pan over medium heat, combine the lentil mixture, onions, potatoes, 1 cup stock, 1 tablespoon oil, bay leaf, thyme, and sherry and bring to a simmer, uncovered.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil the remaining 1 1/2 cups chicken stock. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return to very low heat and cook until creamy, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir into the soup

Simmer the soup, uncovered, until creamy and reduced by 1 cup, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes. It tends to stick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaf and thyme. Serve with Greek yogurt, crème fraîche, or cream.
Makes about 2 quarts.


Turkish Wedding Soup with Spiced Sauce

February 23, 2008


Image: Kadir’s Treehouses in Olympos, Turkey

I hope you were lucky enough to have a treehouse when you were little. If Sam and Harry were looking for an unusual place to spend their honeymoon, they may have discovered a number of treehouse hotels scattered around the world in interesting places. There’s also a wonderful (and enormous!) treehouse restaurant in England’s Alnwick Garden, but we need a place where Sam and Harry can also spend the night. We’ve already imagined them on a safari so I ruled out this treehouse in a Costa Rican Jungle; and while I enjoyed the very punny website for these treehouses in Oregon , I thought these treehouses in Turkey sounded like the most fun!  There are such good things to eat in Turkey, too, including this variation of the traditional “Turkish Wedding Soup.”  Appropriate, or what?? -Almostgotit

Turkish Wedding Soup with Spiced Sauce

Serves 8

2 onions
7 carrots
4 pounds lamb neck bones
10 cups beef broth
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks, divided)
1 cup flour
6 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 1/2 teaspoons paprika

Peel the onions and carrots, cut into quarters, and put into a soup pot with the lamb bones, broth, and salt. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour, or until the meat is soft. Strain the broth into a bowl. Remove the meat from the bones and cut into thin strips or dice.  Return meat and broth to soup pot.

Melt 12 tablespoons butter and work in the flour. Slowly add 1 cup of the warm broth while mixing well. Gradually stir this butter-flour mixture into the rest of the soup, then bring soup to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Keep the soup warm.

Beat the egg yolks with a fork and mix in the lemon juice. Add 4 tablespoons of hot soup. Stir this mixture briskly into the rest of the soup: egg yolks will “cook” immediately. Reheat over a very low flame, or you may even turn off flame and cover pot to keep it hot. Do not boil or soup will “break” and become watery.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter, remove from heat and add cayenne pepper and paprika. Pour the soup into serving bowl or individual soup bowls. Swirl spoonfuls of spiced butter over the top of each.  

Adapted from New York Times Bread & Soup Cookbook by Yvonne Young


Cabbage Bean Soup for a Crowd

February 20, 2008


Creative Commons photo by jamelah

While a monastery might seem an ironic place for honeymooners to lodge, many monasteries support themselves by offering guest quarters, a few of them even allowing romantic cohabitation.  Some require guests to observe rules of silence, or to participate in the work and worship of the monks; others merely offer quiet, clean accommodations and good, simple food for body and soul.  This recipe would probably serve an entire monastery full of people. – Almostgotit

Serves 50-60

8 pounds ground chuck
8 onions, chopped
8  14-ounce cans chicken broth
8 14-ounce cans beef broth
8  30-ounce cans diced tomatoes
16 15-oz. cans kidney beans, drained
2 cabbages, sliced
4 pounds carrots, sliced (or baby carrots, cut in half)
3 Tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
6 cups water

Brown beef with onion.  Drain well.  Add all other ingredients.  Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, approximately one hour.  May add more Worchestershire sauce, garlic, or beef bouillion to taste.  No extra salt is needed.


Lentil-Potato Soup

September 29, 2007

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When I have a long, leisurely Saturday morning, there’s nothing I like better than making soup. You can’t rush a good soup. So, pour yourself a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine, put on some music or a weekend radio program, and relax. This creamy lentil-potato is just about the most comforting soup you’ll ever eat. SAM

PS You can use butter, of course, yum!, instead of oil. But do not use red lentils. They’re perfect for some things, but they don’t have the character you need for this soup.

Lentil-Potato Soup

1 cup small dried gray-green French lentils
6 cups cold water, divided
2 large onions thinly sliced, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 pound new potatoes (3 medium)
1/3 cup instant polenta
1 bay leaf
2 (2-inch) sprigs fresh or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/3 cup dry sherry
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Pick through the lentils, rinse them, and place them in a stockpot with 3 cups of cold water and 1 thin slice of onion. Cover, bring them to a low boil, and simmer for 25 minutes or until soft. The onion helps the lentils hold their shape. If the lentils are not soft after 25 minutes, they are old and will never cook properly. Throw them away and start over with a different batch.

Meanwhile, in large chef’s pan over medium heat, sweat the onions in 1 tablespoon of oil until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

While the onions are sweating, place the whole potatoes in a small saucepan with cold water to cover. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Chop roughly and set aside.

Combine the lentils, along with any pot liqueur, the onions, potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, the bay leaf, thyme, sherry, and remaining 1 1/2 cups water. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan over high heat bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return to very low heat and cook until creamy, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil.

Stir the polenta into the soup and continue to simmer until creamy and reduced by 1 cup, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes.
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts.


Pomodora (Italian Bread Soup)

August 27, 2007

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In old Italian kitchens, pomodora was a way to use stale bread. What started as frugality, ended as a delightful soup that tastes sublimely of summer. The cup of fresh herbs is very important—don’t skimp. Use a good bakery ciabatta or French bread. Even if the bread seems hard as a rock, it will melt in the hot soup. SAM

1 1/2 pounds onions (2 large), thinly sliced
1 medium green or red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 chipotle or poblano or jalapeño pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons roasted, ground cumin
1/3 cup marsala wine
1 28-ounce can tomatoes with juice or 4 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh tomatoes
2 bay leaves
3 cups water or chicken stock
1/2 pound stale crusty French or Italian bread, torn into large chunks
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped fresh herbs: sweet basil, Thai basil, oregano, thyme, and/or parsley mixed to taste
Shredded cucumber or chopped avocado
Sour cream, yogurt cheese, or crème fraîche

In a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat onions and bell pepper in 1/4 cup oil, covered, for 15 minutes. Add the hot pepper and garlic and continue sweating until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 15 more minutes. Uncover and raise the heat to medium high. Add the cumin and sauté, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the marsala and reduce, about 2 minutes. Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, water or chicken stock, bread, remaining 1/4 cup oil, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat, add the herbs, and let rest, covered, 1 to 2 hours. Remove the bay leaves and pureé with an immersion blender or food processor fitted with metal blade. Garnish with yogurt, shredded cucumber or avocado, sour cream, or crème frâiche.
Makes about 2 quarts.


Spinach Bisque

August 16, 2007

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Some people say beating the summer heat is a state of mind. I say all you need is a creamy, cold soup. The great thing about this one is that when the temperature drops to freezing, it’s just as good hot. SAM

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium waxy potato, peeled and finely diced (3/4 cup)
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
10 ounces fresh spinach
1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
2 or 3 gratings of whole nutmeg
Dash of cayenne pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the onion until tender. Add the potato, chicken broth, sherry, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set in the fridge to cool. Meanwhile, steam the spinach, covered, over boiling water, turning occasionally with tongs, until thoroughly wilted, about 4 minutes. Cool on a plate and wring out by hand. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the onion mixture, spinach, and milk and process until smooth. Pour into a tureen and stir in the half-and-half, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Chill thoroughly.
Makes 6 servings.