Thursday, December 16, 2004


Buon giorno, tutti!

How were the clams oreganato? Buono? Yes, I know. Delicioso! And today. What do we have today? It's blustery and cold. We need something warm and soothing and filling. But not fatty. So. Ah. We make lentil soup! Or zuppa di lenticchie. Oh my little piccioni, how delightful for us!

Lentil Soup with Tomatoes [serves two]

1 cup dried lentils (the little dark green French ones are the best)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 stalks of celery, minced
1 medium carrot, minced
3 large plum tomatoes, diced (or one 14 oz. can of plum tomatoes)
1 14 oz. can good chicken or vegetable stock (or your own)
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to tast
dash of crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed (optional)

In a medium sauce pan, saute the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in the olive oil until soft and golden, (like the color of your lover's heavenly tresses). Add the plum tomatoes. If canned, smash them down. (I take them out of the can and squeeze them in my scrupulously clean hands over the pot, letting the scarlet juices ooze between my fingers and down into the minced and golden vegetables. Oh, my.) Let vegetables simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken or vegetable stock. Then add an equal amount of water to the pan. Add lentils. Season with salt and peppers (and cumin seed if you so desire). Turn heat to high. Bring to boil, and immediately turn to simmer. Let simmer for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are soft. (You may test one on the tip of your tongue. Careful. Don't burn your little tongue.) Let the soup rest for about an hour before serving, for best results. Then gently, gently reheat.

Now to make this tasty dish even more heavenly, take some fresh herbs (I use basil, thyme and oregano) and chop them to make 1 very generous tablespoon. Stir this into the soup just before serving.

Serve with crusty Tuscan bread and a good grating of real Parmigiano cheese. (Never, never use that flaked, imitation, monstrosity of an insult that comes in the cylindrical green container when cooking Italinan dishes, or Isabella will have to come to your home and give you a good spanking.)

You may, if you wish serve the soup with ditalini (small soup macaroni) or brown or white rice, which you will cook separately in another pot.

I'm having this for lunch today, with a small green salad, dressed simply with a good fruity olive oil, and then followed by a juicy, ripe bartlett pear. Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh yes!

Buon appetito!

A nice addition to lentil soup is a dash of ground turmeric. Adds a wonderful flavor and color. It certainly is soup-time again.
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