I’m warming my hands today in the fantasy bonfire I’ve lit to burn the January page I ripped off my imaginary wall calendar. I suppose it’s the jolt of another year gone by, plus my blasted birthday, but January invariably hits me like an avalanche of Mondays. Ooof.
But good or bad, moods come and moods go. I plugged my way through January, feeling slow and heavy and trying not to beat myself up about it. But now January is gone and I’m still here.
Hello February! I couldn’t be happier we get an extra day of you this year.
And here’s a pot of soup for your cold February days: classic lentil soup – easy, filling, healthful – spiced with sausage and extra special topped with grated cheese and/or a dollop of pesto. It’s a warming meal to satisfy you in a blizzard, but light enough that you won’t feel like the Pillsbury dough boy if you decide on a midwinter escape to the sun belt.
I used to make this soup often, when we lived in our old house with toddlers and babies, and I made chicken adobo weekly because I was so fried and it was so easy. This soup also falls into the good-and-foolproof category.
French green lentils are the best if you can find them. I was happy to see a bag at Trader Joe’s – in the past I used to buy them in the bulk aisle at the grocery store. This recipe also calls for brown rice, but you can use white rice, or barley, or substitute in potatoes or greens. I also love the chicken andouille sausage from Trader Joe’s, but you can use Italian sausage or whatever you like.
Saute onions, celery, carrot and bay leaves. I should have added the sausage too, but I spaced.
It pays to take a quick sift through your lentils before you rinse them (my friend Maureen has the smart idea to do this in a rimmed sheet pan). Occasionally you’ll find a little stone.
Lentils go into the pot, along with rice, tomatoes and water.
Plus the sausage I forgot earlier. But this soup is incredibly forgiving.
This time, I scorched the soup when I left it simmering and took my daughter to dance class. And guess what? I scooped out the non-burnt soup and it was honestly fine, with a little smoky flavor that seemed entirely intentional. I’m not kidding about the foolproof part.
My babies and toddlers are now old and smart enough to suggest that pesto would make the perfect topper to this soup. And they would be right. I’m grateful for them, for the gift of time, and for February.
Lentil Soup with Andouille Sausage
This excellent lentil soup is filling, delicious and so versatile – more sausage or none, add greens, top it with cheese, pesto or fresh herbs. Adapted from Cooking Light.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium or 1/2 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1/4 to 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut in half lengthwise and sliced (or substitute your favorite – see notes)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 28-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup dried green or brown lentils (red ones get mushy), rinsed and picked over
- 3/4 cup brown rice, rinsed
- Salt, to taste (try 1/2 to 1 teaspoon, depending on saltiness of tomatoes and broth)
- Black pepper, to taste (try 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
- Crushed red pepper, to taste
- Parmesan rind (simmer with soup)
- A few handfuls spinach leaves (add at end of cooking)
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (add at end of cooking)
- Pesto, for serving, a spoonful per bowl
- Parmesan or romano cheese, for serving
- Chopped parsley, cilantro, or basil, for serving
- Heat oil over medium heat in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add onion, celery, carrot and bay leaves. Cook a few minutes to soften.
- Add broth, canned tomatoes, water, lentils and brown rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low. Simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if soup gets too thick. Add sausage and simmer until meat is heated through.
- Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste (add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar if your tomatoes taste flat). Serve with grated parmesan or romano cheese, a dollop of pesto, or a sprinkling of fresh herbs.
- If you are substituting an uncooked sausage, eg Italian sausage, remove meat from casing and cook it in the pot first, breaking the meat apart with a spoon or spatula. Add the chopped vegetables and proceed according to recipe.
- Use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version.
- Brown rice substitutions: white rice (add to soup 25 minutes after lentils) or barley. Or skip the grains and add potatoes or greens.
Here’s the link to a printable version.