Lentil Pasta Soup

Lentil soup is pretty much one of my family’s favorites. It’s comforting, healthy, and just plain delicious. One thing I love about cooking with lentils is that they are quick and easy to prepare – you don’t have to soak the beans or let them cook for hours like most dried beans.

Anyway, I’ve made many variations of lentil soup and this one did not disappoint. I adapted it from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe. The pasta made it extra good and we definitely enjoyed this meatless, hearty soup. It’s heathy and easy – perfect for winter and perfect for these busy holiday prep days!

LENTIL PASTA SOUP
Print This Recipe

2 Tb. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 1/4 c. lentils (I used a combo of green and red)
11 cups chicken broth (or vegetable to make it vegetarian)
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 c. dried elbow pasta
Parmesan cheese (opt.)
Olive oil for drizzle (opt.)

Heat the oil in a  large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes (do not drain). Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the broth and stir. Add the thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.

Return to a boil and stir in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve: sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with olive oil.

Advertisements

Off the Shelf: January Magazines

Well, it seems January is the month of double issues – many of the magazines are January/February issues. Frankly, after all of the fun and inspiring holiday issues, I found these a little lackluster. Of the many I perused, Food Network and Cooking Light were my favorites.  Are you shocked that Bon Apetit didn’t make the list? Me, too! But I just wasn’t interested in the recipes – I really tried to be and read the issue probably four times. 🙂

FOOD NETWORK (Alaina) – After looking at all the wonderful recipes, I finally settled on the delicious looking homemade pretzels in this issue. The 3 page article, photos, and recipes were so inviting. And (if we are being honest) I love bread and I have wonderful memories of making pretzels with my mom. I had  illusions of making memories with my kids as we twisted pretzels into all kinds of fun shapes. This was a fail.

My oldest son opted to stay in (instead of sledding) to help me. And part way through, he sweetly said, “Mom do you think I’m a little better at this than you?” I had to laugh and agree with him that he was indeed “a little better.” I think it failed because, despite my familiarity with yeast, my dough was a bit dry and I underestimated the time commitment.

Anyway, we made the pepperoni pretzels, the sweet pretzels, and the everything pretzels. They seemed impossible and took forever but they actually tasted pretty good but they were not the great soft pretzel I was going for.

And I would try making pretzels again but I’m going to get my mom’s recipe because I do love homemade pretzels. Here’s the link to the recipe – use at your own risk – it has not gotten very good reviews on the website either, I’m afraid.

COOKING LIGHT (Alaina) – This issue had 25 different ways to cook chicken and so chicken was the natural choice for a recipe. I opted to use an unfamiliar cooking method which was basically pan frying chicken that I had pounded thin. I know many people love this method because it is quick, easy, and tasty and after trying it, I will definitely be incorporating this into my repertoire. The Dijon pan sauce was incredibly good and the whole family declared the chicken delicious. I served it alongside mashed potatoes inspired by a side dish recipe in this issue that had caramelized onions in them – they were really good, also.

CHICKEN CUTLETS with CREAMY DIJON SAUCE (Cooking Light, January 2011)
Print This Recipe

4  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
1  tablespoon  olive oil
3  tablespoons  chopped shallots
1/2  cup  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1  rosemary sprig
3  tablespoons  whipping cream
2  teaspoons  Dijon mustard

Place chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness. Sprinkle chicken with salt and black pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan. Add chicken; sauté 3 minutes on each side or until done. Transfer to a serving platter. Add shallots to pan; sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and rosemary sprig; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Stir in whipping cream; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and discard rosemary. Stir in Dijon mustard. Spoon over chicken.

EVERY DAY WITH RACHAEL RAY (Stephanie) – The past couple months I’ve been disappointed by Rachael Ray, so was pleasantly surprised to find this issue filled with good sounding recipes I’d love to try: Ham, Ricotta and Fig Tart; Mushroom-and-Marsala Pappardelle; Cashew-Pesto Pasta; Peanut Butter Pretzel Tart with Caramel Drizzle. I chose to make Pork with Rosemary Lentils and Braised Onions, both because it sounded good and because I had all the ingredients on hand and no time to go to the grocery. 🙂

Anyway, the recipe went together quickly and in about an hour I had a meal that could be completed with the addition of a green salad or some steamed broccoli. The rosemary and garlic in this really stand out and make for some good eating!

PORK WITH ROSEMARY LENTILS AND BRAISED ONIONS (Every Day With Rachael Ray, February 2011)
Print This Recipe

4 1/2-inch bone-in pork loin chops (about 1 2/3 lbs)
7 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 c. lentils, rinsed
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a resealable plastic bag, rub pork chops with two-thirds of the garlic and 2 Tbsp olive oil; refrigerate. In glass baking dish, combine the onions, vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 c. water. Cover and bake until liquid is almost completely reduced, about 50 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 2 c. water, lentils, rosemary, and remaining garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Stir in 1 Tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and cook, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, about 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Serve pork chops on a bed of lentils topped with onions. Serves 4.

Weekend Fare: Curried Lentil Soup

This delicious soup was featured in this month’s issue of Bon Appetit. I wished I had doubled the recipe – it was creamy, perfectly spiced, and great for a winter supper. I did not have green onions so we just enjoyed it without. This vegetarian soup would be a wonderful starter for meal or served as the main dish. You could omit the butter for a vegan dish but the addition of the butter took the flavor to a whole new place – so good!

CURRIED LENTIL SOUP – Bon Appetit, December 2010
Print This Recipe

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder
1 cup French green lentils* (I used regular green) 
4 1/4 cups (or more) water, divided
1 15- to 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

*French green lentils are small, dark green, and speckled with black; they can be found at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils and 4 cups water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in processor.

Add chickpea puree and butter to lentil soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired. Add water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency. DO AHEAD Soup can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Rewarm before continuing.Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle with thinly sliced green onions and serve with lemon wedges.

Weekend Fare: Curried Lentils

I love eating and cooking vegetarian! We probably average 2-3 nights a week of meatless meals. This easy and quick meal (takes under an hour) was popular with the whole family. Lentils are probably my favorite legume and they are quite versatile.

CURRIED LENTILS (adapted from More-with-Less)
Print This Recipe

1 c. lentils
2 1/2 c. beef or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. salt

Bring to a boil and simmer 20-30 minutes until tender.

1/4 c. butter
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
2 Tb. curry powder
2 Tb. lemon juice
chopped parsley

Saute together the butter, onion, and garlic until onions are translucent. Stir in salt and curry powder.  Add cooked lentils with lemon juice and parsley. Makes 4-6 servings.

Serve over rice.