February 20, 2013

Winter Veg and Lentil Stew

"Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor." Marge Kennedy

The Hubs and I decided to take a cue from a couple of the Chef Instructors who work at our school... Chef Brophy and Chef Bailey ritually take a month off from eating red meat and poultry once a year.
We figured it can't hurt to give our stomachs and bodies a month long break, and hopefully clear out our systems a bit at the same time.  We are still enjoying seafood, and I've been cooking with salmon, cod and shrimp a few days a week, so I don't feel as though I'm missing out on protein. 

I do miss bacon especially.  In the winter months, I gravitate to heavier, hearty, satisfying soups and dishes, usually brimming with shredded chicken breast or a smoked ham-hock thrown in for a richer flavor.  When it's cold and dreary weather-wise, it seems my body naturally wants to pack on a few extra pounds for warmth. I blame biology and just reach for my favorite winter wardrobe pieces: Black wool turtleneck sweaters, chunky corduroy skirts and warm boots.  Perfect camouflage for a bit of seasonal pudginess.  Eating mostly fish and veggies this week hasn't really helped in terms of losing any weight since I still enjoy cheese and bread, but it's pushed me to cook more inventively and I feel pretty good.

I love this recipe for Lentil Soup, from one of the most flavorful and healthy cookbooks I own, "The Ultra-Metabolism Cookbook" by Mark Hyman.  I usually sneak in some bacon or a bit of ham or sausage, so this time, I stuck to his original recipe:

Lentil Soup

3 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup diced leek
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup celery leaves
1 (15 oz.) can chopped tomatoes
1/2 pound (2 cups) French green lentils, rinsed and picked over
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 multi branch sprig of thyme
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the leek, shallots, and garlic.  Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until the shallots are translucent.  Add the carrot, celery and celery leaves.  Cook for about 3 minutes until celery is softened.

Add the can of tomatoes, lentils, broth, thyme, salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the lentils are soft, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  The cooking time of the lentils may vary.  Remove the thyme sprig before serving. 

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