Today is the first day of fall! In preparation, I made a big batch of lentil soup this morning so we could just heat it up whenever we’re ready to eat. For me, nothing says “fall” quite like a hearty bowl of soup. It seems strange to me that this is the first day of fall. When was it summer, after all? Though in Santa Barbara we don’t have the dramatic color-changing leaves or cold snap of New England, there is still a slight crispness in the air that makes you want to stay inside curled up in front of a nice cozy fire with a good book. So even if the kids are swinging from the chandeliers, I am snug with a delicious bowl of lentil soup cradled in my lap.
Last time I made lentils I bought them in bulk at the market and they took so long to cook — literally, 1 hour (normally they take 20 minutes). This is most likely because they were old. Knowing that these legumes I planned to use this morning were from the same batch of old, I soaked them overnight to make them softer. Normally, I just soak them as I prepare my other ingredients.
I formed this recipe based on the ingredients I had on hand. One of the things I love about soup is that as long as you have fresh ingredients, you don’t have to be so committed to following a specific recipe. That is why jalapenos and tomatoes, both of which are so prolific in my garden right now, found a home in this pot. For me, part of the fun of making soup is playing around with textures, ratios, and spices while tasting and smelling your concoction. This way you can make the soup that tastes the best for you and your family.
1 1/3 cups lentils (I like French green lentils)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, diced and cleaned
½ onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1 jalapeno, minced (saving half for garnish)
A good pinch of salt
1 quart of home made chicken stock
2 splashes of sherry vinegar
1 tomato, diced
A dash of Tabasco
Minced jalapeno (optional)
Place the lentils in a bowl and cover with water. On medium high heat sauté and the leek, onion, carrot, celery, half of the jalapeno and salt in olive oil on medium high heat in a for about 15 minutes, taking care not to burn the leek.
Then, drain the lentils and add them along with the chicken stock to the pot. Cook for 20–25 minutes until lentils are cooked but slightly “al dente.”
Puree about half of your cooked ingredients in a blender and return this creamy mixture back to the pot and stir to incorporate. Add the fresh tomato, vinegar, Tabasco and taste for seasoning.
Garnish with cheese, parsley, and jalapeno (optional). Serve piping hot.