Ina’s Lentil Soup

In Guangzhou we are extremely fortunate to have Armed Forces Network in our apartment. And while I’m typically not a huge TV watcher, when we first moved in and were without both internet and our DVD collection, AFN was my entertainment of choice. I quickly discovered that their broadcast repertoire includes my favorite TV chef, Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa. I enjoy watching Ina because not only is she a fantastic cook, but she has this way about her that’s just so calming. I suppose if I had a Hamptons-sized kitchen, complete with walk-in pantry, I might be pretty calm too when I cook. But alas, until I get a few more years of experience under my belt and maybe, just maybe, a Hamptons-sized kitchen, I’ll continue to suppress the inner culinary banshee that emerges when I’m putting together an especially difficult dish. Difficult in the “other people besides me will be eating it” sense of the term.

One episode that I happened to catch was when Ina made lentil soup and other goodies for some of her movie-producer friends (of course she did!). I suddenly had an overwhelming urge for lentil soup. A dish that, before now, I had eaten only once before. Such is the power of Ina.

This recipe is so easy and includes ingredients that are very easy to find. Well, easy to find in America. I did have to patiently wait until my Amazon shipment arrived before I had the main ingredient for my lentil soup. But my patience paid off because this is definitely a recipe keeper.

Recipe from FoodNetwork.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound lentils
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 large onions)
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white part only (2 leeks)
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or 1 Tbs minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 cups medium-diced celery (8 stalks)
  • 3 cups medium-diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
  • 3 quarts reduced sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for appx. 15 minutes, until the onions & leeks are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for 8-10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils are cooked through. Check the seasonings and adjust accordingly. Add the red wine vinegar and serve hot, sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Notes from Paige: Although Ina uses French lentils, I used the regular kind and it turned out great. I also subbed in reduced-sodium stock and nixed the cheese.

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