Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lentils & Soup

When I wrote a family history poem that included the lentils my Italian-American 101 year old great aunt used to eat growing up, she was horrified. She asked, “Why would you tell them that we were so poor we had to eat lentils?”

Lentils were a poor person’s food: a cheap, nutritious way to feed a large family. In a soup, the cook could extend the meal even further.

Lentils no longer have that reputation. You see them in soups, salads and as side dishes in everyday and fancy restaurants. My favorite lentil dish in a restaurant is the crushed red lentil soup at Palm Palace in Ann Arbor.

It is true that lentils are inexpensive. If you buy them in an ethnic grocery store (like Jerusalem Garden in Ann Arbor), they’ll cost even less than at your local supermarket. They come dried in a little bag near the other beans. You can buy them in fancier packages in Whole Foods or other upscale supermarkets, but why spend the extra money?

Feeling under the weather, I recently made a quick lentil soup for myself. I soaked half a bag (about half a pound) of green lentils for about an hour. Then, I diced a carrot and a whole yellow onion. I lightly sautéed them together in extra virgin olive oil. Once they were lightly cooked, I added the lentils (drained and rinsed) to the stovetop mixture. To make soup, I added a box of chicken stock. (You could easily replace the store-bought chicken stock with your own stock or water with spices of your choice.) After lightly boiling the mixture for about twenty minutes, I had a thick, filling soup. I ate it hot, topped with some grated cheese, extra virgin olive oil and crushed red pepper.

Needless to say, there was enough for another two lunches. After a good nap and some hot tea along with the soup, I was cured.

What is your favorite quick soup recipe?

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