funny that I should just be thinking of writing about lentil soup. More specifically, its inevitable unappetizing greyish color--at least if you use du puy lentils, or any bluish colored specimen. It does not happen, however, when you use red lentils, as in the soup I was thinking of and longing for when the thought of grey mush too mockingly resembled the rainy outdoors today, the weather the reason I craved healthy and hearty, warming lentil soup in the first place. Apparently, I was not alone.
Signing in to my blog tonight, intending to write mournfully about the weather: the rain that has been off and on drizzling and downpouring for the past four days, the grey that seems even less likely than the rain to let up as the Okanagan enters its infamous season of no color, I instead read someone elses blog. All the better for it, I suppose, because now I will write with less doom and gloom and perhaps a little more, well, color.
Heidi Swanson's blog, 101cookbooks.com, is one of the sites I regularly visit, not only for her stunning photography, but for her wholesome, often vegetarian recipes (i'd never claim to be a vegetarian--dont get me started on such labels--if you have me over for dinner, Ill eat whatever you cook, and i could not imagine life without prosciutto or sausages; if I eat any meat, it is usually for wanton cravings of fatty pork, Italian style), such as this lentil soup that so ironically appeared as her post this evening.
This often happens: I am thinking of writing something, or even just thinking something, and then I read my thoughts written by someone else. In fact, such happenings are both the reason I started this blog, and the reason it took me so long to do so.
I have, for awhile, wanted to do something like this, but hadn't for awhile, because it seemed like everyone was, or already had, done so. Lets face it, there are alot of blogs out there, you probably have one too, so I was hesitant. Then I read Orangette, and promptly ordered Molly's book, where within two sentences, not pages, mere sentences, we are talking less than 25 words here folks, I threw out any idea of blogging, nevermind writing about food again. Ok, I just picked up the book and I am clearly exaggerating, it was page two that got me. But never mind specifics, the point is that she was saying what I felt, what I had written only in personal journals and the very, very, rough draft of my own essay collection/cookbook (more on that later...), and I lost the need to say it. Finishing the book, or at some point there-within (no specifics), I got that feeling back, and here I am typing away, hoping somebody else will read and relate to me, maybe even Molly herself; I realized she needed and outlet, as did I, and rather than feeling someone was saying what I wanted to, I felt companionship in someone feeling what I was feeling, and saying it. I could say it too.
That Heidi is cooking lentils tonight, the same night that I am sitting here craving them, is ironic and comforting, having someone to relate to, even a stranger, a stranger who loves lentils like I do.
Most specifically, red lentils. My intent tonight (slightly off course here), was to not only comment on the grey outside, but the way most lentil dishes turn that similar, bland shade (ok, I am repeating myself, but at least I am focused:weather, lentils, grey...spit it out already). Except dishes made with red lentils (Eureka! what a discovery, red lentil dishes arent grey, I am brilliant, please keep reading my insightful blog). Admittedly, I was having a bit of an epiphany here, as I recalled a way to satisfy my craving for lentils without my dinner matching the outdoors: Jeff Irwins Red Lentil and Rosemary Soup.
Now let me tell you, quickly, about Jeff. He was a chef at 764 Restaurant when I worked there, and his mission, it seemed, was to be completely not approachable or friendly, but rather, seek and enact a method to make you feel horribly guilty/ignorant/unwanted/like crying. His moods were hard to read, and likely to have changed twice over once you thought youd figure it out. I dreaded working with him. But he was very talented, and he made one hell of a, no, many hells of a, good soup(s). I was afraid though, to ask for the recipes, but this lentil one I had to have, it was thick without being thickened, smelled so intoxicating I could hardly deliver it to a table without wanting to sneak away and down the bowl myself, was a beautiful, muted crimson color that just sang of lusciousness. So I mustered up the courage and asked. It took him all day, and me both offering to pay him for it (was he in a joking sorta mood), threatening to not let it go (still hoping he has a sense of humour), cowering away and asking others (he seems edgy), begging shamelessly (egotistic and, yes edgy today), until finally, of his own conceit, he simply said that it was very easy, literally the title gave the ingredients: Red Lentil and Tomato Soup with Rosemary. I knew there was also spinach, and supposed there to be garlic, but he wouldnt say much more. Except that the key, and this seemed mighty generous a divulging of his, was plenty of good olive oil. Lots, he said. That was the trick.
Jeffs soup is simple and damn good, and so not grey. But as I honestly just gave you the recipe that he gave me, I will provide this, but be warned, its grey.
Grey Lentil Stew
I made this with three root veg I love, but I imagine with would be wonderful with winter greens such as chard or kale,some chopped tomatos, or with a grain such as brown rice or farro--though I would cook these seperately and then stir in, as they tend to take longer than the lentils. If you have leftovers, sautee it up in a little hazelnut oil and splash in some red wine vinegar for an amazing salad...but I dont like leftovers, so I just keep on eating, sopping up the juices with some good crusty bread. Oh, and the creme fraiche is key when the weather matches the stew, because though lentils satisty hearty and healthy, cream takes care of comfort just a little bit more.
Warm some olive oil in a sauce pot and slowly soften:
1 clove garlic, smashed, peeled and very finely minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
Add in and sautee three minutes:
1/2 cup golden beets, diced
1/2 cup parsnips
Cook another three minutes and finally add:
1/2 cup jerusalem artichokes, diced
1/2 cup french green lentils
1 bay leaf (this is my old herb standby--you may want to try some dried chili flakes, fresh thyme, or rosemary)
Stir to mix it all up, turn up the heat and when you hear it sizzling, splash in some rosè wine. Stir, then cover with water, about 1 cup (you can add more if needed). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until veg are tender. Top with creme fraiche and chopped parsely and a good swig of olive oil (jeff style).
just stick up your chin, and grin, and say...