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.

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Lentil Stew

November 30, 2007

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Here’s another ‘accidental’ recipe. I was making Lentil-Butternut Soup with a lovely, little pumpkin-shaped squash not long ago, and by the time the lentils and squash were cooked, I was hungry. So, I swiped a bowl for lunch. Delicious! Use all olive oil if you like, but the tablespoon of butter adds an extra level of flavor. Except for bay leaves, it really doesn’t need any of the spices and herbs that go in the soup. Serve it as a main dish with salad and cornbread or as a side with roast beef or pork. One try and it will be a family favorite! SAM

1 cup dried Puy lentils
5 cups water, divided
2 large onions, thinly sliced, divided
2 1/2 pounds pie pumpkin, cheese squash, or butternut squash
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/3 cup marsala wine
Sea salt and freshly ground white peppercorns to taste

Pick through the lentils, rinse, and place in a stockpot with 3 cups of cold water and 1 slice of onion. Cover, bring to a low boil, and simmer for 25 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile, quarter the squash and scrape out the seeds and pulp. Place seeds and pulp in two cups water in the bottom of a steamer pan and bring to a boil. Place the squash cut-side down in the steamer basket, cover, and steam until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and scrape the flesh into a bowl. Strain the steamer water, discarding seeds, and mix with the squash. Add the bay leaves. In a large chef’s pan over medium heat, sauté the squash mixture in the oil and butter until slightly reduced, about 15 minutes. Add the marsala and reduce, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked lentils. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes.
Makes 1 1/2 quarts.


Lentil Market Soup

November 8, 2007

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This hearty cold-weather market soup is especially tasty with cream! SAM & HARRY

1 cup small gray-green lentils
6 cups water, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium onions, thinly sliced, divided
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons toasted, ground cumin
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 medium turnips, diced
3 new potatoes, diced
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup polenta
Sea salt and freshly ground white peppercorns to taste
Crème fraîche or heavy cream

Pick through the lentils and rinse. Place in a stockpot with 3 cups of cold water and 1 thin slice of onion, cover, bring to a low boil, and simmer for 25 minutes or until soft.

In a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon oil, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high and add the cumin, stirring until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots, turnips, potatoes, and sherry and cover until hot, about 3 minutes. Uncover, add the bay leaves and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked lentils and any pot liquor. Reduce the heat to low.

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring 1 cup of lightly salted water to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return to low heat and whisk until thick, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir into the lentil mixture. Add 2 cups water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until reduced by 2 cups, stirring frequently. Serve with a tablespoon of crème fraîche or heavy cream stirred into each bowl.
Makes 2 quarts.