Soup is Good Food
For as long as I can remember, anytime my parents left us kids alone for the evening, and we had to "fend for ourselves", we happily perused the pantry for what was usually a can of Campbell's Soup for dinner. It was quick, easy, there was lots of variety to choose from and from the perspective of a parent on a budget, inexpensive to replace. And it filled us up, too. Although I have long since given up Campbell's due to the high sodium and MSG content, soup is still good food and I have learned to make my freezer the pantry that I had growing up. I usually tend to begin my weekly ritual of making giant pots of pipping hot deliciousness in the fall, after the first leaves have fallen. Gifts from the last harvest of friends' gardens, farm share pickup and farmer's markets provide me with enough bounty to stock my freezer full in just a few weeks. However, even with limited fresh produce, one can produce nutrient dense pots of soup or stew for just a few bucks per serving. And even if you aren't an experienced cook, many are SO easy, you hardly need a recipe to follow. I will share one said recipe with you today. Let's call it Lebanese Lentil Soup, as the seasoning I chose tends to be a combination typically found in that precise region of the Mediterranean. My cooking style tends to evolve from the ingredients first, research second, instead of the other way around. This means that most recipes often do not call for what I have on hand, so I tweak the recipe until it is no longer one particular recipe, but rather a creation from several, and a pinch of whatever Sabby throws in. I may or may not measure, but will intentionally try to communicate in clear terms the amounts used. Often, those details are insignificant in my eyes anyway... it's more important to cook for taste - which varies from individual to individual - and for nutrition. I should also mention that 80% of the time, my soups happen to end up vegan, which makes them more affordable and healthier, too.
Lebanese Lentil Soup
a few tablespoons olive oil
(I tend to eye it. You want just enough to lightly coat what you are about to sauté)
1 1/2 large onion
(I had fridge leftovers in pieces and several varieties of fresh smaller onions - green, red, yellow and white - and combined them all together)
1 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt
9 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of red lentils
(this type of lentil is probably best for this soup, as it would cook within 15-30 minutes, however I ended up using what I had, which was a mixture of black and French green lentils, which require a longer cooking time)
2 bunches of greens
(I had beet greens to use up, but I feel that I also could have used collards, chard, kale or mustard)
1/4 head of cauliflower
(again, something I just happened to have on hand)
1 small patty pan summer squash
(another item I wanted to use up... you could use any variety of summer squash or zucchini, or none at all)
1 1/2 tablespoons of cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
fresh crushed black pepper to taste
(use as much as you prefer. I peeled and pressed 5 cloves for this batch)
I like to start by processing my veggies:
- wash and trim greens (leaf only), slice in thin strips, set aside
- chop onions, cube cauliflower and dice squash so they are similar size, set aside
In a BIG pot, toss in your oil, onions, cauliflower and salt and sauté on medium heat until they soften.
Add water and lentils, stir, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until lentils are soft.
In a separate pan, sauté the greens on low heat with a bit of olive oil until slightly wilted, set aside.
Do the same for squash, add black pepper while cooking, set aside.
When lentils are done, add greens, squash, cumin, cinnamon and minced or pressed garlic.
(I prefer pressed, as you retain a lot of the precious oil that makes garlic such a fantastic infection fighter)
Simmer for another 10 minutes to let flavors marry.
Add a splash of lemon juice to finished pot.
Typically, once the pot of soup has cooled, I portion into reusable salsa and hummus containers.
They tend to be the perfect meal size for freezing and stacking in the freezer.
Then, in the morning, on my way to work, I grab one for my bag. By the time I'm ready for lunch, it's had time to thaw enough to transition to a proper ceramic bowl for microwaving, or a pan for reheating. YUM!
For more information regarding the benefits and nutrients of some of the ingredients I used,
click on the links below: