Our preschool is a maternity ward this year, with lots of second-time-around parents who are happily accepting meals from their cohorts. This time, the family I'm feeding is not vegetarian so
I decided to try something different with my standby Hearty Lentil Soup. We had some sweet chicken Italian Sausage from the farmers' market. I browned that up and then proceeded with the recipe as written. For my grain, I did one pot with brown rice and the other with pearl barley. As a unifying touch, I crushed up about 1 tsp of fennel seeds and added when the soup was done--to echo the flavors in the Italian sausage. I also put in a teaspoon or two of sherry vinegar for brightness. I'm really pleased with how it turned out and will definitely try this variation again.
For convenience, I used the food processor for the onion, carrots and greens.
Because I dislike recipes that refer to other recipes, I'm re-posting the whole recipe again with the new ingredients.
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 to 1 lb bulk sweet or hot Italian sausage (as opposed to links) OR same amount ground beef
2 cups onion, finely chopped
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, chopped or put through a press
3 carrots, diced
1 cup diced celery or celery root (celeriac)
2 tsp salt
1 cup French (Puy) lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 cup brown rice or barley (quinoa might work, or kasha could be really good if you like it--I've discovered that I don't; I think it tastes dusty)
1 bouquet garni of 2 bay leave, 8 parsley branches (I often omit these), 6 thyme sprigs
9-12 cups water or vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
1 bunch greens, washed and chopped
1-2 tsp sherry, balsamic or red wine vinegar or to taste (optional)
1/2 to 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds or ground fennel
Mushroom soy sauce to taste (we got our at 99 Ranch Market, but I'm sure regular soy would work; I bet that some brewer's yeast might be nice, too, actually)
- In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the Italian sausage. Cook over medium- high heat (I think I do medium-high) until the sausage is no longer raw.
- Add the onions and continue cooking until the onion is soft and slightly browned, stirring often, about 10 minutes. The onions should be slightly browned.
- Add the tomato paste, garlic, parsley, vegetables and salt and cook for 2 more minutes
- Add the lentils, bouquet garni, rice, barely, quinoa or kasha and water/stock. Because I recommend that you add the grain uncooked instead of adding cooked pasta, you may need to increase the amount of water/stock. My general rule is to add water to cover the ingredients by 1-2 inches. You can always add more water/stock if it seems that the grain doesn't have enough liquid to soften
- Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Madison recommends cooking for 30 minutes, but your grain may take longer--the barley certainly will. The good news is that Puy lentils hold their shape beautifully and won't disintegrate even with a longer cooking time. If using a grain, I'd recommend checking for tenderness at 30 minutes and then add time accordingly.
- When the grain is nearly done, taste for seasoning. Add the ground fennel and then salt, pepper and vinegar as needed. You could also add some mushroom or regular soy sauce or brewer's yeast. Madison cautions that the flavors will meld and get nicer over time--the soup tastes better the next day.
- Add the washed, chopped greens and let them cook for 10 minutes or so. They might not be as bright green, but it saves a step and a pot and has always worked well for me.
- Serve with Delicious, Crusty Bread or Drop Biscuits