While you were unpacking, reorganizing, starting a new job, getting Dash to a new school and acclimating Keillor to having her own room, Tygh, the kids and I made our way to Sun Valley, Idaho for a little snow, skiing and general R&R. It was lovely – tons of snow, but with temps in the thirties to forties, and beautiful, blue, sunny skies almost every day. Sounds like vacation, doesn’t it?
Tygh and I were married almost 8 years before we had out first kid, and had been a couple for nearly 8 years before that. As a result, we have done a lot of vacationing, the two of us, sans kids. And, not to brag, but we were really good at it. Hell, it was how we ended up with kid number one!
Now that we have two kids, however, "vacationing" is basically just like daily life, but in a different location and with fewer resources, i.e. no preschool, tried-and-true babysitters or daycare.
Don’t get me wrong – it was so fun to get away, be with the kids and be outside in the snow and sun. But, some of the things we commonly associate with vacation, (i.e. long walks, longer meals, lots of naps (our own) and apres ski activities) were, shall we say, not exactly options.
Which brings me to my response to your soup letter. While you were using soup to settle into your new digs in the winter bliss that is Montana right now, we used it as an alternative to dining out with our two not-always-well-behaved-at-8pm kids. In the interest of not totally giving up on the concept of vacation, the recipe does not keep you in the kitchen long: it is simple, fast and soooo satisfying. We served it with fresh bread, a gooey cheese and a simple salad. A few drinks and a bottle of wine later and it was just like vacation used to be.
Rustic Lentil Soup.
The key to any good bean soup is to avoid using any acid - tomatoes, vinegar, etc - until the beans are fully cooked. This keeps the beans from getting tough during cooking. Also, while many people season foods as they go, soup is really best seasoned at the very end, when the amount of cooking liquid won't change much, and thus the risk of over-seasoning is much lower. Lastly, while wonderful the day it is made, like most soups and stews, this dish is even better the next day.
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
4 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2" slices
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 shallot, diced
3 T olive oil
4 cloves pan roasted garlic (see below), then chopped
1 tsp dried thyme, or two sprigs fresh thyme
1 T cumin
2 bay leaves
Pinch of cayenne, to taste
½ c dry white wine
2 C green lentils, rinsed and picked through
2 -3 quarts vegetable broth (this is my favorite brand here)
1 x 28oz can diced san marzano tomatoes
2 T red wine vinegar
Start by pan-roasting the garlic. Heat a large soup or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add unpeeled cloves of garlic, and toast 3-4 minutes on each side, until browned and fragrant. Let cool a bit, then peel and chop.
Heat olive oil in the same soup pan over medium heat. Add onion, shallot, carrots and celery, sautéing until onions are soft, translucent and just beginning to brown. Add garlic and spices, stirring for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add white wine and saute until dry. Add lentils and 2 quarts of broth, cover and bring to boil. Remove lid, lower heat and simmer gently, uncovered for about 45-60 min, until lentils are cooked through (you may want to add more broth, up to another 4 cups, depending on specific lentils and your own soup tastes). Add tomatoes and vinegar, then salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat, then cover, letting flavors meld another 15 minutes, or even longer. Heat through before serving, and top with greek yogurt or sour cream and diced green onions.