09 November 2010

Soup Time

What do you do on a cold, windy, rainy afternoon when you have completed your work and have other work to do but you are procrastinating? You make soup. That's what I did today.

I ventured out in the pouring rain to my local fruttivendolo (greengrocer) and bought the best possible locally grown produce, herbs, and organic lentils all from Tuscany. Here is what I did:

extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil
1 onion
1 leek
5 stalks of celery
6 carrots
several cloves of garlic
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small can of tomatoes (diced)
2 cups of lentils (rinsed in cold water)
vegetable stock or fresh water
fresh thyme
fresh Italian parsley
freshly grated Parmesan cheese (no Kraft products EVER!!!)

First, I put on some great music to accompany me in the kitchen. I played some blues, a live B.B. King CD. As the soup was on the stove, the windows fogged up, and the scent from the vegetables and herbs perfumed the house. It was just the right ingredients to make for a cozy, comfy homestay.

Chop the vegetables very fine in preparation for making soffritto (sauted mixture of freshly chopped vegetables and ham or bacon). I want to explain.  

Soffritto is the base of many soups and other dishes in Italian cooking. I chose not to add any meat to the soffritto because I wanted a vegetarian soup. The vegetables ideally should be chopped so small that they are barely larger than a lentil. Many people tell me they find all that chopping to be a form of meditation and very relaxing. Being that I'm not a big fan of cooking nor the most patient person, I find it to be work. I chopped my vegetables pretty finely today, but they were not uniform. One reason is I lack the essential cooking tools. A mezzaluna (half moon; crescent shape) is what's really necessary for efficiently and quickly doing all that chopping, which is a crescent-shaped knife with two wooden handles that you rock back and forth as you chop your vegetables. And the other reason is I started to get lazy.

After chopping all the vegetables, heat the olive oil, add the vegetables and saute until the vegetables begin to get tender (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic, salt, and pepper.  Add the tomatoes and juice and let simmer a few minutes until the juice begins to evaporate. Add the lentils, coat in the mixture. Add the stock or fresh water. I probably used about 2 quarts of vegetable stock. I didn't measure it, which is what I love about Italian cooking. It doesn't have to be perfect. Add the thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and simmer on a very low fire until the lentils are almost tender (al dente), about 30 minutes.

Lentils are more commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking; however, in Italian lentil soup, a pasta is usually added. If you would like to add some pasta, toss it into the pot when the lentils are al dente and simmer until the pasta becomes tender.

Once the soup is ladled into the bowl, add some fresh Italian parsley, fresh grated Parmesan cheese, sprinkle some olive oil, and serve with a yummy crusty bread.

Add some friends and laughter, and the soup becomes that much better.



  2. Bella, hmmmmm seems like a good recipe to try. I'm hoping it will feel like Italy even though I'm in Malaysia. They don't eat quite the same kind of soups....most are based with some sort of fish base. Oh well, it's all in the culture. Love your blog, and I promise I'll check in more often. You're right, I'm not on mine very often. Just got back from Bangkok and looking forward to Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand with Linda Sharpe in December...for about a month! Ciao Bella....let's keep connected, because I'm coming back to Italy, hopefully, as soon as I can! Hugs, Liz