So how about that Super Bowl?! I don't know if you were rooting for the Ravens, the 9ers, Beyonce, or even the electricity, but it sure was exciting! I was lucky enough to attend two different parties—each of which was packed with incredible and incredibly sinful food. I put away food like an NFL player and practically put myself into a food coma with some excessive servings of homemade mac and cheese. When Monday rolled around, I was ready for something healthy. Plus my parents were visiting, and my dad is a big fan of soup.
Growing up, we didn't eat a lot of soup, but when we did it was usually Brunswick stew and my dad loved it. As a picky eater who wasn't a huge fan of vegetables—especially all mixed together, Brunswick stew wasn't my favorite probably because it could easily be called "kitchen sink" stew. Recipes vary greatly but it's usually a tomato-based soup with some combination of vegetables, like potatoes, corn, beans, and okra, and some meat, like rabbit, squirrel (seriously), chicken or pork. As an adult who now loves soup and most vegetables (even when mixed together), this recipe felt like a somewhat healthier version of this Southern staple.
Anyway, I invited a few friends over to soup with us, and I kind of got busy hostessing and forgot to actually drizzle the garlic oil over the soup, along with the grated pecorino cheese. This is supposed to raise the bar unforgettably. Well, I thought it was freaking awesome as is, so I'm motivated to make it again—and soon—this time with the requisite finishing touches. I also forgot to take any photos of the soup once it was plated. Bad food blogger! Anyway, you'll just have to take my word for it that it was both beautiful and delicious.
There are several other nice thing about this recipe:
1) It doesn't take hours to make.
2) It's healthy even though it does have a little sausage in it. (I'm Southern so a little fat hardly counts.)
3) It calls for water instead of stock or broth so it's cheaper and easier.
4) It makes your house smell wonderful.
So whether you're cooking for Southerners or Californians—or anyone in between, I am confident this soup will be a hit.
And now my sports focus turns to NCAA basketball. . . .
Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard and Garlic
Adapted from Secrets of the Best Chefs
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
4 large links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, diced (I actually used leeks b/c I had some I needed to use)
2 celery stalks, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced (reserve half for the oil)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Dash of Tabasco
1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 bay leaves
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
8 cups of water
Freshly ground pepper
4-6 cups shredded or ribboned Swiss chard leaves (or kale)
Grated pecorino cheese to garnish
1. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven on medium heat. When hot, add sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the onion, celery, carrots, 2 cloves of garlic, pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook with the sausage until the vegetables soften a bit, another 5 minutes.
3. Add the lentils, bay leaves, crushed tomatoes, water, Tabasco, and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. You may want to add some more water to the pot if the soup gets too thick.
4. When the lentils are cooked, add the chard and cook until the leaves are tender, 5 - 10 minutes. Discard bay leaves.
5. To finish, divide the soup among bowls, then add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 garlic cloves to a small skillet and heat over medium heat until the garlic softens and hisses. Drizzle this over the soup bowls, and top with grated pecorino.