Thursday, September 29, 2011

The perfect time for soup (Lentil Soup, That is)

When you are a soup person, there is no bad time for soup.  Unless you don't have air conditioning -- then summer can be a no-soup-zone. But if you have air, you can even find soup days in the middle of the summer.  So there might not be a bad time for soup, but there still is a perfect time for soup.  And today is a perfect soup day in Chicago.  A few days ago was the first day of Autumn, it was 59 degrees, it was cloudy and misty outside all day.  If you cannot hear the day yelling make soup today Mommy, you must be taking a nap.  And then good for you.  Today is a lentil soup day at my house. Lentil soup is comforting, healthy, and tasty.
Lentil Soup  

You have to start with the magnificent trio -- I would use the term Holy Trinity of Cooking, but it is a bit offensive, but true.  Onions, carrots, and celery.

1 medium onion
2 carrots
2 celery

salt/ pepper
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1   32 oz box of chicken stock (low sodium)

8 cups of water
2 bay leaves
3 - 4 medium potatoes
1   16 oz bag of lentils (wash and sift through them looking for rocks or foreign debris)
3 chicken bullion cubes
1 ham shank or hock (I prefer the shank. You can cut meat off of it and put it in your soup in the end.)
          * If you don't want to use meat, don't. It will still be tasty without it.
small piece of cheese rind (my secret ingredient)

          * Again you don't need this, but I love adding it to my soups.  It adds a saltiness to the background.
4 handfulls of pasta (I use digitali, but any short pasta will do.)

Chop the first three ingredients up, place them in a stock pot with some olive oil over medium heat. Salt and pepper them to help draw out the water. When the magnificent trio become softened (about 3 - 5 minutes), add two minced garlic cloves for about 1 minute until the flavors meld together. Then add chicken stock, water. bay leaves, cubed potatoes, washed lentils, 3 chicken bullion, ham, and cheese rind. Let simmer for a couple of hours.  If you want noodles add them in at the end.  Take the shank out and cube up into desired size for soup.  Lastly, drop pasta in soup and let boil for the amount of time stated on package.  Then shut soup off so to not over cook the pasta.  Serve and enjoy the warmth.

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