January has gotten off to a wonky start. Not a bad start, it just … doesn’t feel like it’s the turn of the New Year. First, January is already almost 1/3rd of the way over. Can you believe it?
Second, we haven’t had any appreciable snow this season (and the temps hit almost 60°F on Saturday). Honestly, it feels like November. But this is not a complaint, mind you — nooo, sir — this summer girl is not a fan of snow. It could stay like this through April, and I’d consider it a gift from the gods. (But I know better. Sooner or later, we’ll be pelted, and I’ll be doing my annual mumble-grumble as I’m snow-blowering the drive.)
Still, despite the warmer temps, I’m in full-tilt comfort soup mode. The days are full-on dark by 6:00pm, and there’s just something very hearth-and-homey about cooking in front of darkened windows, rooms lit only from within. Very Little House on the Prairie. Without the prairie. Or the pigtails.
Oh! And on Friday, I heard word that Penzeys is coming to my city. [Squee!] While I can’t exactly bemoan my access to spices, our city’s one good spice merchant is located in a market that makes me grind my teeth just thinking about it. It (the market and the vendors within) is located fairly far from me (in terms of actual drive time), so I can’t just pop out to this joint and pick up the fenugreek I need for dinner. And, parking is a hot mess, adding 10 super-aggravating minutes to the whole shebang [#firstworldproblems].
So, having a Penzeys just 15 minutes from me in a parking-endowed shopping center is the best cooking news I’ve received in this 9-day-old new year. And [crescendo of emotions building], like, … it’s Penzeys! [Squeeeee!]
Ooo, sorry. I do get happy-weepy over spices, though.
Get to the soup already, okay?! is what you must be thinking while I’m sitting here going on and on about a spice store.
Ironically, you won’t need Penzeys for this soup, as this recipe calls for only common things. Unless you’re completely out of herbs and spices. And then you might have to dash out … if you’re lucky like me … to your nearest neighborhood Penzeys and pick up some essentials.
[There you are with the Penzeys again ... focus, SoupAddict, focus!]
Soup. Lentil soup. Lentil soup with bacon. Lentil soup with bacon where you throw stuff in a pot and let it cook for an hour. And while your lentil soup with bacon is cooking largely unattended for an hour, you get to do something awesome. Like take a nap. Or bake brownies. Or browse evil addictive Pinterest.
Or, in my case, empty the dishwasher [#morefirstworldproblems and #dontenvymysuperexcitinglife].
Rustic Lentil Soup
adapted from Carmine’s Family Style Cookbook
This hearty winter soup is rich, savory, naturally gluten-free and can be prepared vegetarian or vegan (see notes at the end).
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 ounces diced pancetta
2 strips uncooked bacon, diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 portabella mushroom, gills removed, sliced
4-5 cups chicken stock
1 small (8 oz) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups lentils, red or green (or a combo) rinsed and drained
1 small Yukon potato, diced
1. In a large 4-5 quart stockpot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until the butter starts to foam. Add the pancetta and bacon and cook for about 7 minutes or until the bacon reaches your desired crispiness. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, onions and mushroom and cook the mixture for 10 to 12 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned.
2. Add 4 cups of the chicken stock to the pot and then stir in the tomato sauce, fish sauce (if using), bay leaves, salt, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Add the lentils and potatoes, increase the heat to medium-high and bring the soup to a boil.
3. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the soup for about 45 minutes.
4. Add more chicken stock if the soup becomes too thick. Taste the soup and add salt if necessary. Remove the bay leaves and serve.
Note: to make the soup vegetarian, exclude the pancetta and use a vegetarian bacon (such as tempeh bacon or other) in place of the bacon. Exclude the fish sauce and sub vegetable stock for the chicken stock. The vegetarian version is quite delicious in its own right. For vegan, use all olive oil instead of butter.