Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Soup Project: Deborah Madison's Rustic Lentil Soup

I wanted to immerse myself in the world of soup, so I visited the local library online and reserved a number of soup books. As often happens with the library the books all came at once so I came home with an armload. The stack made me wonder whether world needs any more soup books? Who knew soup was this popular? Obviously I was clueless.

I looked through the books and the one that stood out from the pack was Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. I remembered when this book came out, but at the time I had lots of soup recipes and my space for book collecting is full, and I confess, I don't always look at new cookbooks. But once I flipped the pages, I was inspired by the way she combines flavors. And when I spotted "A Rustic Lentil Soup with spinach," I knew this was the soup of the week. I couldn't wait to make (or change) the recipe.
Deborah's recipe listed onion, carrot, red bell pepper, and spinach. Bell pepper and spinach are fresh ingredients that I don't buy in the winter but when I spotted these mushrooms, I knew they'd be perfect in my dream version of this soup recipe.

Shiitake mushrooms add a deep flavor and an intriguing meaty texture and they also offer so many health benefits, it's worth the price to add them to vegetarian main dishes and soups. You don't have to buy a whole log at this booth at the U District Market because they also sell these nutritional gems by the pint container. As I recall one pint cost $6.00.
We bought a shiitake log like this one (but not from this place) and we waited and waited and finally got one huge mushroom, one of the biggest I'd ever seen, and then only a few small ones later, so actual results aren't always like you see in the picture.
A soup just wouldn't be complete without Nash's sweet carrots. (Look for them at all Seattle winter markets as well as PCC Natural Markets.) These carrots turned extra sweet this year and my Cooking Assistant checks my bags each week looking for them.

Here's the recipe with my adaptations for winter vegetables. Get out the crusty bread or make your own biscuits to go with it because it's pure comfort food for a rainy winter day.

A Rustic Lentil Soup with Kale
Adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, she says "all greens are good with lentils, and I especially like to add them to a soup that's going to be a meal. That way you get all your good foods together in one bowl."

1 cups brown lentils, rinsed and soaked if possible
1 to 1 1/2 cups shiitaki mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, grated or finely diced (use one of Nash's big carrots, if you're lucky enough to have them in your kitchen)
1 potato, diced (no need to peel)
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
6 cups water or vegetable stock
2 cups kale, middle rib removed, finely chopped Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped parsley
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Red wine vinegar or apple cider to taste
Croutons for garnish

If you haven't already soaked the lentils, soak them while you prepare the rest of the soup.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and dry fry the mushrooms until they become soft--5 to 7 minutes. Roughly chop and set aside.

Heat a soup pot over medium head and add the oil, onion, and carrot. Stir and cook until onion softens, add drained and rinsed lentils, mushrooms, potato, garlic, tomato paste, prepared mustard, dry red wine and bay leaf. Stir to combine, then add water or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until lentils are soft.

Add kale and salt and pepper to taste and continue to cook until kale softns--5 to 10 minutes. Add about a teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and add a dash of vinegar to each serving. Garnish with croutons, if desired.

Nobody "gets" croutons like my Cooking Assistant. What's your weakness with soup?


Justin said...

loved this recipe. so simple--i mean i've used all of these veggies together in soups before, but the red wine and mustard gave it a unique taste which i've been craving in a soup for quite some time.

ddzeller said...

I'm glad you liked it. Who knew red wine and mustard worked so well together?

Jill said...

I just made this recipe and instead of red wine or apple cider vinegar, I served it with a splash of ume plum vinegar which was an amazing addition! I've been making different lentil soup recipes for the past few weeks and was frankly quite sick of lentils, but the ume plum vinegar really took it to another level. Just thought I'd share!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Hummm, give me new ideas for the ume plum vinegar in my pantry. Love lentila!