Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spicy Lentil and Sausage Soup

Finally, we've got a picture!!

I recently had the pleasure of a week-long visit from one of my dearest friends, K.  She lives in Europe now (I know, jealous, right?) but we met in New York in 2003 when we were both training to become teachers.  As cliche as it sounds, for reasons that are immensely obvious and yet indescribeable we became fairly instantly the best of friends.   We even look somewhat alike-- or did back then with the same haircut and glasses-'- we went walking around our Bronx neighborhood to exclamations (en Espanol) of "Mira mama, gemelas!" (Look mom, twins!)  And while I don't think we were THAT much alike on the outside, our "insides" seemed to match very well.

And so it stayed, through years of learning how to teach and eventually doing it, through boyfriends who become husbands (and the ones who didn't make the cut), through several moves that separated us in distance, we have spent many hours sharing good food, talks, movies.  And I miss her like hell.  Technological advances have helped us stay in touch over the miles, but its not the same as being in the same room eating cookies together.  We had a wonderful visit while she was here, and I cherish the time we were able to spend and just "veg" in each others' presence.

Perhaps that is why it was even more of a delight than usual when K's husband L came for a visit a week after she left.  L occasionally comes back to The States for work, and when he does, he usually drops by for a visit.  Its always wonderful for us, since my Loving Duke and L get along so famously, but this last visit was an especially nice one.  Perhaps it was because he's been here so often now that I don't feel like I have to "super clean" the house before he arrives-- he more like a long-traveled family member than a friend, so he's been upgraded to "lightly clean the house" status.  I think for me, however, it had more to do with the fact that I had just seen K, so seeing L so soon afterward felt like we got to spend more time just enjoying him for the interesting person that he is.

Cooking for L is always a challenge.  He's on a special diet that does not allow him to eat gluten or any kind of dairy.  I usually just give up on desserts since everything I can think to make has either flour our milk in it.  But you can't invite a man to the house and not feed him dinner-- that would be criminal-- so I've made exciting things such as a HUGE green salad with chicken, pears, sunflower seeds, all kind of exciting salady things.  I've made smoked chicken with potatoes and grilled veggies.  This time I made Sausage and Lentil Soup.

Inspired by the soup from Carrabas Restaurant, I dug around on the internet to find something that would suit our needs.  And I found The Soup Lady.  This lady rocks my world, especially because its COLD this winter, and nothing seems to taste so good on a cold evening as a steaming bowl of soup.  I have made more than one of her soups, and I always enjoy them!

I have very literally copied and pasted her recipe here, except I've take the time to create an ingredients list first (she likes to put it all together in the instructions directions).  Also, she calls for hot italian sausage-- I think we used "Caribbean Sausage" from The Olde Town Butcher here in town.  (No, they're not advertising, I just LOVE all places small and local where they provide excellent customer service.)  I highly recommend going to a butcher and checking out their different sausages-- you might be surprised at what you find.  VERY different from a supermarket meat section.  Anyway, I digress...

So I made the soup.  First, it made the house smell DIVINE!  Secondly, I LOVE dinners I can make ahead and leave in the crock pot, which is what I did with this one.  Then dinner was ready whenever I wanted it to be.  Thirdly, EVERYONE loved this soup.  My loving Duke couldn't get enough, L thought it was fantastic, and I was pretty proud of myself.  I hardly missed the hearty bread that I would normally make to dip into it.  Its SO easy, and again a great dinner to make ahead, put in the fridge, and drop in the crock pot on your way to work.  Yum yum.  Bonus-- you could do it vegetarian pretty easily, if you were to add in some extra spices and use vegetable stock instead.  But why?

Spicy Lentil and Sausage Soup
Excellent make-ahead dinner.  Could also be listed in the "freezes beautifully" section of any cookbook.  Simply add a little more chicken broth if it thickens up too much.

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 carrots- diced
2 stalks of celery- diced
1 large sweet onion- chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
1 lb hot sausage, removed from casings
8 cups chicken broth (or even better, chicken stock)
2 cans whole tomatoes
2 cups dried lentils, washed according the package directions
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (we like it spicy, use less if you like stuff mild)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
two bay leaves
1 package of frozen spinach, thawed and "wrung out"

Preparation Instructions
1. In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add one carrot, celery, onion and garlic.  Saute until tender.
2. Remove vegetables from the pan and and add sausage, removed from the casing, to the pan. Brown the drain off fat.
3. In a large stockpot (or crockpot), put chicken broth, the sauteed vegetables and the sausage meat.  Open two cans of whole tomatoes, break them up by squeezing them with your hands and add to the soup along with the juice. Add the dried lentils.
4. Season with salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme, fennel seeds and bay leaves (don't forget to remove bay leaves before serving).
5. Simmer until the lentils are tender, 45-60 minutes. Remove 1/3 of the soup and puree it using an hand-held blender, then return it to the pot, add spinach cook for 5 min until the spinach is warm. Correct seasonings and remove bay leaves.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds delicious! Anything that "freezes beautifully" reminds me of Steel Magnolias. So, even better!