Monday, March 03, 2014

Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage and Swiss Chard

We are enjoying the third coldest/worst/however you want to express it winter in recent memory and I have to say it is really getting to me.  I love winter; I moved to Chicago partly for the weather, but even I have had enough.  We finally had a bit of a thaw last week and I was actually able to wear regular shoes for a record three days in a row (and for the first time since before the new year), but it had to go and snow again Friday night.  I actually whimpered Saturday morning when I looked out the window and saw another layer of snow covering the partially melted layers, and I had to go to my closet and pull back out the snow shoes that I thought (hoped, really) I was done with for the season.

But it will end, eventually, and I know there are people having to cope with far worse problems than this in the world.  So I will persevere and try to enjoy the opportunity to cook even more hearty winter soups and stews to warm me up and get me through these cold, dreary days.

This lentil soup with Italian Sausage and Swiss Chard is just the thing to do it, too.  It is hearty and satisfying and travels well for workday lunch.  You can't go wrong with that.

I feel the need to share a tip I have recently discovered.  One of the things I have always liked about lentils is that they do not require soaking before use.  But I recently made a recipe that called for a two-hour soaking and I was curious about it so went ahead and soaked them.  And the result was amazing.  They came out plump and tender, and seemed to have more flavor (although that might just have been because their texture was so soft and creamy).

So the bad news is that I have started soaking my lentils before I cook them.  It does add time to the process, and it is not necessary, but I have found in the few times that I've done it now that the difference in texture and flavor do make it worth the extra time.  I don't soak for a full two hours, though.  I just rinse them and get them covered in water as soon as I get started on the recipe and let them soak while I prep the other ingredients.  So it doesn't really add that much extra time to the process but makes a huge difference in the finished product.

The original recipe called for Escarole but that is not what was available at the store so I opted for Swiss chard instead, which was on sale and looked good.  Spinach would also be good.
Home Cookin Chapter - Beans and Vegetables

Serves 4-6

1-2/3 cups lentils, rinsed well
5 cups water
3-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage links, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 pound Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Place the rinsed lentils in a bowl.  Cover with water and let them soak while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.
Simmer the lentils in the chicken broth with the bay leaf and half of the garlic in an uncovered 4-quart pot for about 12 minutes.  While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Brown the sausage, then remove it to a towel-lined dish.

Reduce the heat to medium add the onion, Swiss chard stems, carrots, celery and remaining garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Saute until the onions are just soft, then stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for two more minutes.  Add the sausage and the lentils with their cooking liquid and simmer for about five more minutes, until the lentils are tender.

Add the chard leaves and cook until tender, about three more minutes.  Add the vinegar to taste and adjust the seasoning.  Remove the bay leaves and serve.

adapted from recipe in Gourmet Magazine [RIP] (October 2008)

Exported from Home Cookin v.8.55 (

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