Another excerpt from Loba’s Enchanted Pantry, written in the days before I knew that garlic and tomato sauce both do strange things to my belly. It is fabulously yummy though, so enjoy an extra bowl for me Oh, and for those of you who requested a copy of the cookbook, I’m in the process of sending them out now, so hopefully everyone should have their own copy in the next week.
For Kiva and me, this is one of the most fundamental recipes in this book. We begin craving it when the first really cold nights descend on the canyon, and then I make it on just about every Baking Day because we so love to dunk pieces of buttered fresh baked bread into it! Between the two of us we have no problem polishing off the whole pot-fulls, and there are so many ways to vary the experience from day to day we don’t get tired of it. We really enjoy it over a piece of baked fish or chicken, or enchilada style with homemade corn tortillas. And little Rhiannon loves it when we serve it like a sauce with extra olive oil, over any kind of pasta. Plus there are simple ways to change the flavor, adding different veggies, olives, or nuts, wine and bacon, or even Thai chile paste and peanut butter. Double the recipe for a crowd, keeping in mind that folks often want seconds!
1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils, rinsed and checked for stones
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 can whole tomatoes, 15 oz.
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and left whole
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon cumin
1 half teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
A few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 big bunch watercress, spinach, kale, dock, nettles, or turnip greens (or…)
Romano cheese and sour cream, for garnish
Put the rinsed lentils in a large pot, covering them with 2 or 3 inches of water. Set it to boil over high heat, and reducing it to a simmer after it does. Meanwhile, cook the onion over medium heat in a skillet until browned and tender, then add to the pot. Toss in everything else but the greens, and cook until the lentils are quite tender. Taste and adjusting the seasoning as you like, and add more water as needed. Make sure the greens are entirely free of grit (even big city leafies often have a little sand on them!) and put them in at the very last, leaving them just until they’re tender. Don’t overcook them! And if you have any watercress or turnip greens, leave them raw and arrange prettily on top of each bowl…. with the cheese and cream mounded in the center, and a teaspoon or more of the extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top.
Variation: Lentil Soup With Toasted Corn/ Acorns
Instead of the greens, toast 2 cups of corn over medium heat (preferably straight off the cob) in a dry skillet until browned (about 20 minutes, and don’t scorch it!). Mix corn into the soup, or use as a garnish. This one’s also great using half toasted acorns, half corn. White oak acorns are especially sweet, but must be gathered as soon as they begin to fall. I also collect the juicy pink flowers of the wild lima plant and use them as a garnish for this soup whenever I can get them.
Variation: Lentil Soup With Wine, Bacon & Wine-Soaked Raisins
This version came about when I had some leftover Quail with Merlot Sauce. All I did was combine a little cooked bacon and the remaining sauce with a bowl of this soup, savoring it with buttered whole wheat bread and a tiny glass of the Merlot…. toasting the setting sun! To make this from scratch, soak a half cup or more of raisins in a cup of Merlot (or other full-bodied red wine) until plump, then add to the basic soup at top (you may want to omit the greens on this one), simmering until you can no longer taste the alcohol, only the wine’s essence. Fry 4 or more slices of lean, thick cut bacon until barely crisp, crumble it over the top of each bowl followed by a garnish of Romano and/or sour cream!