Monday, December 03, 2012

Balsamic Lentil Soup

Now that I have been cooking with legumes for over a decade it can be challenging to find something new and exciting.  I know there is a lot more out there that I have yet to encounter, but as I have been cooking so much from scratch and working with various cuisines many new recipes that I found seem to be variations on similar themes.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and every now and then I run into a new ingredient or method that takes a dish to a whole new level, which is why I continue to buy cookbooks and magazines and look online for new recipes to try.  I never know from where inspiration may come.

This Balsamic Lentil Soup is a good example of this.  The only reason I gave the recipe a second look is because I had some escarole left over from a chickpea soup recipe I recently tried (that was not all that successful on its own but has reminded me that I am not overly fond of rosemary and a little goes a looooong way, and about which I have some ideas on how to improve, so I hope to have something new to share with you about that in the near future as well) and I needed a legume dish to take to work with me for weekday lunches.

I have several soup cookbooks, many of which I have not looked through since that first quick once-over I give every new cookbook that finds its way into my home, so I took them off the shelf and started looking through them to see if I could come up with anything.  I found this recipe in a little cookbook called Savory Soups and Stews by Anne Egan that I have had for several years but had not yet taken the time to look through it.

What stood out in this recipe was the use of balsamic vinegar.  Balsamic vinegar is an item that I use often in vinaigrettes and marinades, but I have not found many other uses for it.  That may be a result of its overuse in the late '90s, where every restaurant had its own version of roasted [fill in the blank] with balsamic vinegar.  Inevitably, the dish was drowning in a lesser quality pool of the stuff.

But I thought it might work well with the lentils, and provide a different flavor profile than the ones with which I am familiar.  I thought the sweetness might provide a nice balance with the earthiness of the lentils.

The result was good, but not great.  There was not enough acidity to my taste to balance out the sweetness, and overall the soup lacked a depth that I have come to expect in my lentil dishes.  I had to add more salt than I like because of it, and a dollop of yogurt increased the acidity just enough, although it could still have used more.

Overall I liked it enough to make it again, but I would add some red wine and use slightly less of the vinegar, and I would add either lemon juice or white wine vinegar at the end to up the acid level.  I could barely taste the Tabasco sauce I used as the mild pepper sauce, so I would definitely use more of that next time I make it.  Your mileage may vary. 

(This post has been edited to correct for my inability to correctly spell "Balsamic.")
Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Serves 4
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups beef, vegetable or chicken broth
3 cups water
1 can (14-1/2 oz) diced tomatoes
1 cup dried lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 bay leaf
2 cups chopped escarole
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp mild-pepper sauce
kosher salt to taste

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.  Add the broth, water, tomatoes, lentils and bay leaf and bring it to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Stir in the escarole, vinegar, and the mild pepper sauce and season to taste with salt.  Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.

from Savory Soups and Stews, by Anne Egan (Rodale Inc., 2000)

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

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