Monday, October 1, 2012

Lentil Soup With Spinach and Sausage

Soup is by far and away my favorite thing to cook. And probably eat. And I'm so excited that it's finally cold enough to do both of those things! I love soups that are loaded with vegetables, meats, herbs, grains, etc. The more you can pack in a soup, the better it is. I can't remember where I first got this recipe, but I've made enough changes that I'll just call it my own :)

1 lb. Italian sausage (sweet or spicy)
1 medium white onion, diced
1 package (8 oz.) white button mushrooms, sliced
1 package (8 oz.) cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 lb. dried lentils, rinsed
2 8 oz. bags of fresh baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2-3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

First things first, things need to be chopped. I hate chopping onions. They make me cry like the end of Titanic and none of the so-called tricks work for me. I have actually thought about getting onion goggles. But that is ridiculous. So I speed through onion chopping and don't do a very pretty job. Oh well. No one cares what shape they're in when they're going in your mouth. Mushrooms next. Make sure you clean your mushrooms with a damp dish towel instead of running them under water. They'll absorb too much water that way. I've always wondered why mushrooms are allowed to be sold covered in dirt. It's kind of gross, right? The onions and the mushrooms go into this soup at the same time so it's easy to put them in the same bowl to free up space on your cutting board.

If I hate chopping onions, then I loathe chopping garlic. The smell lives on your hands FOREVER and it's gross. Luckily, there is a contraption that makes it all better. I call it my garlic car. Mine is the Martha Stewart brand from Macy's but there are lots to choose from out there. You just peel your garlic cloves, pop them in the car, roll it along the counter a few times and your garlic is chopped and your hands don't reek. It's a win/win.

And that's all the prep work! Simple.

Heat a large stock pot (mine is 8 quarts) or Dutch oven over medium heat. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the casings and into the pot. This is easy - just pinch the sausage in the middle and squeeze the meat out the ends.

Cook the meat until it's browned, about 5-7 minutes. While the meat is cooking, start breaking it up with a wooden spoon so it's in smaller pieces.

When the sausage is browned, remove it with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel-lined plate. Pat off any excess fat with paper towels and set aside. You can also sneak a piece or two because it's delicious and you should.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pot with the fat that's left. Mmmm pork fat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook them until they're soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, stir, and cook for about 1 more minute.

Add the thyme and bay leaves and stir to incorporate them. Mushrooms and thyme were meant to be together. If you're ever stuck with an excess of mushrooms and have no clue what to do with them, add some thyme and saute them and then toss them in a salad, an omelet, or put them on a pizza. Automatic deliciousness.

Add the lentils and stir to incorporate.

Slowly add the chicken broth and stir to combine.

Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to low so the soup is simmering. Partially cover the pot and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes. This will give you an al dente lentil, which I like. Let it simmer for a little longer if you want a softer lentil.

Once the lentils have puffed up and some of the liquid has been absorbed, start adding the spinach in small batches and stir just enough to wilt the spinach. Add the sausage and let it simmer just a little longer to heat the sausage through. Don't forget to remove the bay leaves! You don't want to eat those. I'm not quite sure why, but you don't. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then enjoy your hearty bowl of yum.

I kind of wish I was eating this for my morning snack right now. It's so filling and tasty and everything goes together perfectly. You could add more vegetables too, if you'd like. Carrots and celery would add color and flavor. You could also make this with just about any kind of sausage or green. Kielbasa and kale perhaps? I just like the alliteration there. But that's the beauty part of soup - any additions or substitutions will likely make it better, not worse. Plus, it makes a ton so you don't have to worry about what to make for dinner for the next few nights. That makes it cost effective too :) I'm already excited for dinner tonight!

Tell me what your favorite soup is!

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