Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chanukah Recipe #1....and I'm cheating ALREADY

I created it.  I wrote it.  I've made it for two Chanukah parties and counting.  It's not exactly that I'm's that my first (of 8....see self-imposed blogging challenge here) Chanukah recipe blog uses a recipe that I already blogged about on the fantastic Jewish Boston site.

Alas, it is a GOOD recipe and my number one answer to the question "What on Earth do I serve WITH the latkes?"  If that isn't reason enough to make it, I'll give you several more, then let you get on your way to chopping and simmering....after all, Chanukah starts TONIGHT!

1)  It's cheap.  I love cooking and feeding people.  But I love minding a budget without feeling like I'm sacrificing.  Lentils are about $2 a bag.  This soup will easily feed 8.  You're welcome, wallet.

2) (As long as you keep an eye on your ingredients) it can easily be made vegan and gluten-free.  Yet, the rib-sticking fillingness (thank the fiber) and flavorful taste, won't leave a bread-lovin' carnivore too despondent either. 

3) It's warm.  It's December in Boston....this one needs no explanation.

4) It tastes really, really good...especially because it's so easy to customize it to YOUR tastes.  (And the leftovers, should you have any, will make a handy lunch this week too.) 

Alright, I'm done here.  Happy Chanukah...and enjoy!

Vegetarian Lentil Soup Recipe
Consider this recipe your own personal canvas. Up the garlic and/or add cayenne pepper or hot sauce for a kick.  Substitute chard or kale (or nothing at all) for the spinach. Eliminate the rosemary or use about a teaspoon of your favorite dried herb.  When not serving with latkes (or even with if you're brave!), top with shredded cheddar or parmesan, sour cream, or croutons.

2 tablespoons olive or other veggie oil (feel free to use less, or even just non-stick cooking spray)
1 medium onion or 2 shallots, peeled and diced
3-4 ribs celery, washed well and cut in dime-dized slices
1-10 cloves garlic, smashed, peel & chopped
4 medium or 3 large carrotts, washed, peeled (unless they're organic or from the farmer's market) & cut in small dice (1 bag of baby carrotts cut up in thrids or quarters would work too)
1  1/4 cups dried brown Lentils (sold in plastic bags under the canned beans in your grocery store or in bulk in health food stores)
11 cups water and/or vegetable broth  (if you use water, you'll want to add more salt at the end of cooking)
1 small can Tomato paste
1 branch fresh rosemary, leaves torn off & finely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried herb (rosemary, basil, oregano, etc.)
1 10-ounce bag fresh spinach, washed if needed and chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

1) Get our your biggest, heavy-bottomed soup pot.  Heat the oil on medium-high heat til shimmering.
2) Saute' the onions and celery until getting transluscent and softer but not browned, about 5 minutes
3) Add the garlic and carrotts and saute' 5-10 more minutes until the garlic is soft but not too browned.
4) Add the lentils and toss around for a minute.
5) Add the water or stock and turn the heat to high.  (If you're using water not stock, add 1 teaspoon of salt now.)
6) Cover and cook until lentils are soft to the bite, 25-45 minutes.  If the pot starts to boil over, lower the heat a bit.  You do want a nice rolling boil though.
7) Stir every so often, make sure nothing is sticking.  Add more water or stock if needed.
8) When the lentils are tender, add the tomato paste stirring well.  Add the chopped rosemary or dried herb.  Add the spinach.
9) As the spinach wilts, start tasting and seasoning.   Add more salt as needed, plus pepper, hot sauce, etc. to taste.
10) When the spinach is just wilted (try not to overcook it too much) and the soup tastes good, you're done!
11) Serve in mugs with latkes, in bowls garnished with cheese, etc. and served with bread and salad for a lovely dinner, or serve to yourself with a spoon and congratulations on a job well done.

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