Saturday, December 12, 2009

Soup weather

It's raining in LA (can you see the rain droplets on my basil plant?). It's amazing how this rain, far from a storm, throws things out of whack: traffic goes haywire, people are late to everything (even if they're walking!), etc. This morning, I seriously considered not walking the one block to the grocery store. It goes without saying (but I'll say it again) that we are a spoiled lot here. I can't remember what I did when I lived in London, much less what I did during every other winter of my life in Minneapolis, Appleton, or Chicago.

I know this "bad" weather won't last long. In the mean time, it's time to crank up the Ralph Vaughan Williams, wear sweaters, and make soup!

This was a "clean out the cupboard" soup. Not particularly special, but tasty, balanced, and satisfying. I was particularly pleased with the combination of French lentils and Israeli couscous--exactly the same shape and size, but with different tastes and textures, they keep you on your toes!

Maybe I'm just getting a little homesick as the holidays approach, but making this soup made me think of several eating traditions that were part of my family when I was growing up. Whereas I think Scandinavian or Germanic peoples get excited about being lucky enough to find a gold coin or something in their piece of cake, my brother and I were told that if you found the bay leaf in your soup, you were lucky! Gee whiz... Also, the fact that when tomato-ey foods were involved, my brother was only allowed to the dinner table if he came shirtless, so as to avoid splattering on his clothes. Then there's the special family pronunciation of "cayenne"... but I can't tell you that...

Soup of Greens and Lentils, with Whole Wheat Pita

1-2 TB olive oil
the better part of 1 yellow onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and then chopped (i.e., in half-moon slices)
1/2-1 c French ("puuy"?) lentils
1 big splash red wine, red wine vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
1-2 bay leaves
1 TB dried thyme
a small bunch of parsley, minced
2-4 TB tomato paste
black or cayenne pepper

3-4 c water or vegetable stock
2 c dark leafy greens (I used beet greens) with thick stems removed, chopped
1/4-1/2 c Israeli couscous
2-4 TB miso (preferably red), if not using stock
warm water as needed

In a large pot or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and carrots, and saute 3-5 minutes. Add lentils, wine, herbs, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and water. Reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes, until lentils are cooked. Increase heat again and add greens and couscous, cooking 5-10 minutes until they too are tender. Add water as desired. Meanwhile, in a separate small vessel, dissolve miso in warm water. When soup is ready, remove from heat and stir in miso-water. Serves about 4.

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