I love fall! The crisp air and colorful foliage inspire me to create more comfort foods in my kitchen. Soup is the greatest comfort of them all.
During the fall and winter months, I like to make a pot of soup at least once a week, serve it with a mixed green salad and home-baked bread for supper, and enjoy the leftovers for lunch.
The process of making soup conjures childhood memories of being in the kitchen with my mom and grandma. As a child, I looked forward to the day when “I would be old enough” to actually chop ingredients with a sharp knife, rather than just stir what was added to the pot.
I remember marveling over the knife skills that both my mother and grandma possessed. With swift hand-peeling and paring, each vegetable would be cut into precisely the same size chunk.
The awe I had regarding mother’s soup was less about the specific mix of vegetables and ingredients, and more about the art of how the soup took form. Being involved in the process made both my brother and me eager to devour the end result.
She would often “hide” the vegetables that were not our favorites, like rutabagas and beet greens, in soup, so that we would acquire the taste for these garden treats. I admit: I too have used this strategy with my own children - sometimes with success, others not so much.
Creating soup was very intentional for my mom. She started it early in the day, and let it simmer and develop its flavor. The aroma filled the house.
One of my favorite soups is made with lentils. It is delicious, hearty, vegan, and economical. It has taken me years to get it just right. I hope you like it.
Lentil Vegetable Soup
1-pound French green lentils
Place the lentils in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit while you prepare the vegetables.
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 leeks, chopped, the white and light green parts only
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 stalks of celery, diced
4 carrots, diced
1 cup of diced mushrooms
1 cup of chopped kale (I like the Italian Lacinato variety best)
1 cup of chopped fresh, Italian parsley
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper
6 cups of vegetable broth (or chicken broth, bone broth, or water)
1-quart of whole tomatoes and juice (I use home-canned)
¼ cup of tomato paste
½ cup of red wine
Freshly-grated Parmesan cheese to serve (optional)
In a large stockpot on medium heat, sauté the onions, leeks, and garlic in olive oil. Add salt, pepper, cumin, and thyme, and cook until the vegetables are translucent and very tender (about fifteen minutes). Add the rest of the vegetables and parsley, and sauté for ten more minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, and drained lentils. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer covered for at least an hour or until lentils are cooked through. Check your seasonings and add red wine. Serve hot, topped with shredded Parmesan.