Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! Lentil Soup


Happy New Year! With the little matter of 2011 behind me, I'm excited to share with you one of my family's traditions for New Year's Day. If you happen to have lentils in your pantry, you, too, can create this soup today. Otherwise, I'll remind you next year, and you'll be all set for financial gain and good luck in 2013.

For as long as I can remember, my family has been celebrating New Year's Day with a bowl of lentil soup. My godparents, Kathleen and Mike, always invited us over for both soup and also cannoli. I tried typing "cannolis" or "cannolies" just now, (because you can't each just one) but upon further research, it appears that cannoli is actually plural, and the singular is cannolo. I was also excited to learn that these 'little tubes' are Sicilian in origin, which is from where my grandmother's family immigrated to America. But enough about dessert, let's talk soup:

Lentil Soup
(served on New Year's Day for good fortune in the coming year)
adapted from Dom DeLuise's book Eat This... It Will Make You Feel Better

8 oz dried green lentils (227 grams)
4 cups veggie broth (1 liter)
3 cups water (750 ml)
2 Tablespoons olive oil (2 eetlepels)
1 medium onion, diced
2 to 3 garlic cloves (you can use more if you like), minced
4 to 5 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped (cut in half length-wise and then slice)
1 bay leaf

In a large soup pot, combine lentils (sort through them, make sure there are no foreign objects), broth and water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Lentils should be just tender, but not falling apart. Chop the veggies, and when there is ~15 minutes left on the lentils timer, heat a saute pan with the olive oil. Place the onions in the oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and cook on medium heat until onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Stir them often to prevent burning. Add garlic, carrots, and celery and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. You might need to add another tablespoon of oil or so if the mixture is sticking to the pan. The lentil timer should be going off at this point, so add the veggie mixture to the lentil soup pot along with the bay leaf. Simmer this for another 10 to 15 minutes, checking the carrots. I like my veggies done aldente, so if you would prefer them cooked longer, go for it. The soup can be topped with grated Parmesan cheese and served with bread, or as we did today, grilled cheese sandwiches. Enjoy!

The two-pan technique of this soup ensures your veggies are not cooked to oblivion, a flaw in many recipes online. By cooking the veggies separately from the lentils, the flavor and texture of the veggies is preserved. If you eat this soup on New Year's Day, you will be wealthy in the coming year, according to the Italians, for whom lentils signify good luck (their recent financial situation aside). If you don't trust the Italians, the Brazilians also believe lentils signify wealth, so you've got that going for you, too.

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