Monday, December 28, 2009

Cooking on a Budget: Lentil Soup with Spicy Greens

Ok, Christmas and Chanukah are over and the New Year looms ahead. Is anyone out there going to be sorry to see the ass end of an ass year disappear around the bend? Things are looking just a little bit brighter for 2010. Let's hope the trend continues to move in an upward direction, and that before long everyone is working who wants to be, everyone has health care who needs it, and nothing gets in the way of the Season 4 premiere of "Mad Men".

You've been eating leftover turkey and its accoutrements for the past week and you're looking for something different to serve while you watch those Bowl games (didn't think I even knew they played football on New Year's Day, did you?), or something to sop up all of those evil vapours left by the copious amounts of alcohol you consumed the night before. You want to start the New Year with a healthy note, but you still want to feel like you're eating something meaty and satisfying. You want to feed a mess of people, but you don't want to have to go to a lot of trouble.

Look no further, ladies and gentlemen. I've got the perfect New Year's Day dish for you. It's healthy, it's filling, it's meaty (although I suppose I should just say up front that there's no meat whatsoever in it), and - gosh darn it - it tastes good!

What could be better on a cold winter day than a nice warm bowl of soup, chock full of lentils, carrots and celery? Not much, that's for sure, but a healthy dose of spicy mustard greens seals the deal.

It can be a little scary if you haven't done it before, so I will give you a quick look-see at how it's done.

You heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. You add a tablespoon of brown mustard seeds and shake the skillet around to make sure they all get covered in the oil.

When the seeds start to pop (don't worry, you'll know), place a lid over the skillet until the popping noises stop. It doesn't have to be a tight-fitting lid. If your skillet does not have a lid, like mine, just take the biggest lid you have and lay it in the skillet as low as it will go. You just want to keep those little devils from popping out of the skillet and onto your stovetop.

As soon as the popping sound stops, lift off the lid and add the 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. You can increase or decrease the amount of red pepper flakes to suit your taste. Wait about 30 seconds, long enough for the flakes to absorb some oil and start to darken, and then add the mustard greens.
It will seem like there is too much to fit in the skillet, but don't worry about that. Just pile the greens as high as you need to in order to get them all in the skillet. At this point, it's easier to switch to tongs and keep moving the greens from the bottom to the top so each leaf has the same amount of time over the heat.

Eventually, the greens will cook down and they will all fit into the skillet. From here, you just want to cook them a minute or so longer to make sure they are all wilted. They will continue to cook in the soup so you don't have to worry too much about it.

Just add the greens to the pot of soup and you are good to go.

If you insist on having some meat to start off the new year, you can easily brown some cubes of chuck along with the onions and add beef broth instead of water. Or if beef is too much and lentils aren't enough, you could use chicken broth instead of water.

If you wanted to get a little fancier you could use the French petite green lentils, which adds about 85 cents per serving. I like it just a tad better, but it's mighty good with the plain old brown ones. And for the price, there's no better way to start the new year.

Home Cookin Chapter: Soups and Stews

Lentil Soup With Spicy Greens
Serves 6

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 quarts water
2 cups French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 Tbsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 lb. mustard greens, swiss chard, or kale, washed and coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until onion turns golden brown. Add garlic, cumin, and turmeric and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.

Add water, lentils, carrots, celery, bay leaves, thyme, and salt. Bring soup to boil; lower heat to simmer, and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In large skillet or saute pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring, until seeds begin to pop. Cover loosely until the noise from the popping seeds has mostly stopped. Add the red pepper flakes and the greens and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the greens have started to wilt. Stir the greens into the soup and simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes, until the greens are tender.

Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding additional salt, freshly ground black pepper, and 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

adapted from The One-Dish Vegetarian, by Maria Robbins (St. Martin's Griffin, 1998)

Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (

1 comment:

Eugen Caitaz said...

Wowww! It's looks so delicious!!!! :)

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