"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Souper Saturday: Mama Pidal's lentil soup

I seem to be coming down with some sort of weird cold-type thing, so it was a good thing I was prepared with a big pot of Mama Pida's lentil soup. It's hearty, tasty, and really easy to make. This recipe is my mother's and it is one of the first things I ever attempted to cook when I decided to branch out from the pasta/stir fry rut. I love making it in the fall and winter. The best part of this soup is that you can season it and add things to it to your heart's content. That and the fact that lentils don't require any soaking, so you don't have to prepare in advance with this soup the way you have to with other bean soups. I use a minimum of broth and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated and been absorbed, so that it's more like a stew. I'll call it a potage (a thick stew-like soup). Sounds fancier.

Rinse 1 cup of uncooked lentils in a strainer and drain. (Pick out any pebbles or nasty-looking lentils.) Toss them in a pot with two cups of water and two cups of vegetable or meat broth or stock. (You can add another cup or two of either if you want.) Add 1 diced onion, 1 cup each of chopped carrots and celery, and 2 cups of firmly packed baby spinach leaves. Throw in 2 cloves of minced garlic and some salt and pepper and turn on the heat until it starts boiling. Cover, and stir occasionally, until the spinach has wilted. At this point you can throw in a diced ham steak or a couple of chopped cooked sausages (but these are entirely optional). Stir a few more times and allow to boil another few minutes. I also like to add some other seasonings, like a bay leaf or two (which you must remove later), some garlic and/or onion salt, or some adobo powder, which is a typical Latin meat and vegetable seasoning.

Adobo: seasoning of campeones!

Lower the heat until the soup is just simmering and then just let it simmer away, stirring every now and again. This is a very low-maintenance soup. I allow it to simmer until all the vegetables have taken on a nice brown color and nearly all the liquid has disappeared, so it's like a stew. Delicious! If you're more into soupy lentils, you can add a cup or two of water or broth to the pot while it's simmering and remove it from the heat before all the liquid disappears.

This soup keeps well in the fridge, and it will thicken the longer it sits in there. To reheat, you can add some water or broth before microwaving. I just like to eat it like a stew, with some nice buttered toast. It's simple, filling, hearty, and comforting. I love soup, and this is one of my favorites. I remember eating it all while I was growing up and every time I eat it now, I feel home. Thanks, Mama!

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