Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hearty Sausage* & Lentil Soup

OK, so I had this awesome sausage and lentil soup years ago at a now defunct* Italian restaurant chain called Cucina, Cucina.  It's just about the ugliest soup ever (yep, even beats split pea!).  I experimented at home and came up with something like it that the family enjoyed for years.  Fast forward 10 years later, and somehow I have stopped making the soup.  So, I bought some hot Italian sausage and went to town in the kitchen making the soup again... this time I got curious and did some google searches.  A couple matches came up for copycat recipes for that restaurant chain, but they were, well... complicated, and I wasn't really feeling their recipes were close to what I remembered. So, I simplified my search and found Rachel Ray's recipe for Spicy Hungarian Sausage and Lentil Soup.  MMmmmm, it really struck a cord with me, but again too complicated.  Here is my rendition of all that I read.... it was really, really good soup and mostly healthy too!

1 16oz. bag of lentils, brown or orange
1 lb. bulk sausage, use mild, and Hot only if you like it quite spicy!
2 med carrots, diced
3-4 stalks celery, including inner leaves, diced
1 med onion, diced small
8-10 cups of water, or stock
     (If water, use 1 Tbsp chicken base, or 3 bouillon cubes)
1 can of diced tomatoes... I used Italian style with basil, oregano & garlic, but any will do.
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
1 bunch of kale, shredded finely and sliced into 2 inch pcs (optional, but good and pretty too!)
Salt & pepper to taste

Brown the sausage and break apart with a wooden spoon as it cooks.... fine is nice, but a bit of chunk is nice too! You don't really need to add any additional oil, because as the sausage browns, it will render some fat.  Leaving the sausage in the pan, add the onions, celery and carrots and cook for about 3-5 minutes over medium high heat.  If you see to much fat in the pan, you can try to drain some off, but really, it adds a bunch of flavor and you aren't adding any other relax!  Add the lentils, and the water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about an hour until the lentils are soft and are starting to break apart.  Add the tomatoes and the spices and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes, add more water as needed, you don't want this too thick!
Shred the kale and put a small amount in the bottom of each bowl and ladle soup on top! OR, you can just add it to the soup, reheat and serve.  Kale holds up pretty well for taste, color and body.
*I'm not really sure about the 'defunct' part, but these restaurants used to be everywhere, and they are no longer anywhere around here.... they might still be one somewhere else!

Side Dish Inspirations

Here are some ideas for serving with this dish:
  • Bread & Salad... not much else needed!
  • Cup of soup and a sandwich
Round Two cooking… make more and use it for:

If you plan it right, you could make a double batch to have enough leftover to make any of the following for another meal.  Here’s some ideas:
  • Freeze half, you've got dinner made for a busy work night if you remember to take it out of the freezer the night before! Better yet... take it out on Sunday night and let it slowly thaw and be ready when YOU need it!
  • Package it up and bring it to a sick friend or someone going through a tough time.
  • Get those little travel cups with the vented lid and portion a bunch up to take in your lunch.  Way better for you, and lots cheaper too! Plus, if you have a job where it's tough to even get away from your desk, this is the way to do it!

What else would this technique work on???

  • Vegetarian or Vegan? You could leave out the sausage and the chicken bouillon base and use just water, or vegetable broth instead. I bet they make a tofu "sausage" that you could use too!
  • White Beans or Black beans would work great too, but they would take a lot longer to cook. Maybe make a "cheater" version and add 3-4 cans of drained canned beans! I bet it would work!

No comments:

Post a Comment