Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lentil Vegetable Soup

Stan and I just got back from a lovely visit with his family in Cleveland, Ohio. While the wisdom of traveling to the land of lake effect snow in January is debatable, finding $60 roundtrip tickets is a rarity that makes braving the cold a little more tolerable. (You read that right - $60 roundtrip! We caught a crazy Southwest sale back in October and jumped on those prices in a flash.)

To keep us warm and spoil us rotten, Stan’s parents cooked all of our favorite Russian foods, turning our visit into a four-day feast. (I’ve told you before that Stan is Russian, right? He didn’t move to the U.S. until he was eleven, and his family still speaks Russian at home.) Russian food is the perfect winter belly-warmer. It’s hearty and homey enough to fortify you through those Arctic Siberian winters – or January in Cleveland.

However, while we love traditional Russian foods and Stan’s parents’ excellent home-cooking, back in Nashville we are feeling the need to lighten things up while we recover from the feasting that embodies our family get-togethers. When it comes to eating healthier, lentils are an excellent choice. They are inexpensive, high in protein, and very filling.

While we already have a lentil soup recipe on this site, today’s soup is a bit different. It has a different flavor profile and a lot more vegetables. It also takes quite a bit more time to prepare, due to all of the chopping involved with those vegetables. Do not let that dissuade you though. This soup is fantastic – flavorful, colorful (as colorful as lentil soup can be), healthy, and filling. The recipe makes an enormous pot of soup, so you can have it on hand for healthy lunches or dinners all week. I imagine it would freeze well too, so you could make some now and save the rest for the next time you, like us, need to lighten thing up a little.

P.S. Notice the new look of The Well-Fed Newlyweds? I thought it was time to give the site a little cosmetic facelift. In addition to the new graphics and colors, the site has a wider layout, which I think will make for easier reading.  There are bigger pictures, too, for your viewing pleasure. (I'm undecided about changing the size of the pictures in earlier posts. It sounds like a good project for a rainy day.)  I hope you like it!

One Year Ago: Creamy Shrimp Enchiladas (One of the most-viewed recipes on this site.)

Lentil Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups yellow onions, chopped
4 cups leeks, white part only, chopped
1 T. garlic, minced
1 T. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. fresh thyme leaves, minced or 1 tsp. dried
1 tsp. ground cumin
3 cups celery, diced
3 cups carrots, diced
3 quarts (12 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 lb. lentils, green or brown, rinsed and picked over for stones
2 T. dry red wine or red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin. Sauté for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are translucent and very tender.

Add the celery and carrots and sauté for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chicken broth, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover the pot, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, or until the lentils are cooked through. Stir in the red wine (or vinegar) and serve hot, sprinkled with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Serves 8 to 10.

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