I'm on vacation! But here's what we had for dinner on Tuesday night, in my effort to be resourceful and use up the sausage we had in the freezer, the lentils that had been in the pantry for a while, the spinach that was starting to wilt on its own, and the other fresh veggies that would go to waste if I didn't use them up before catching my plane. We liked it a lot and so did the neighbors of ours who happened to not be allergic to lentils. (One neighbor had to miss out, unfortunately. Lentils!? Really!?) Tasted extra good with a nice
bottle glass of wine.
Here you go...
Italian Sausage and Lentil Soup
Yield: Serves 6 as main course, or 8 as first course. (Or maybe even more. We are big eaters and this makes a whole lotta soup.)
16 oz. brown lentils
2 carrots, cut into 2" chunks
1 large celery stalk (or 2 small-medium ones), cut into 2" chunks
2 tomatoes, quartered
6" sprig of rosemary (optional)
6 cups water + 3 tablespoons beef bouillon OR 3 cups water + 3 cups beef broth
2 more cups water
16 oz. hot Italian sausage, casings removed (if your sausage comes in casings... mine did not)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cups fresh spinach (or other chopped cookable greens - see note)
Salt and pepper
Avocado and homemade croutons, to finish
Rinse and drain lentils in a strainer. Pour the lentils into a large saucepan and add 6 cups water and bouillon (or equivalent broth/water combo), carrots, celery, tomatoes, and rosemary sprig. Bring to boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Place a strainer over a large bowl and strain the mixture, reserving the cooking liquid in the bowl.
Put about half of the lentils and all of the vegetables into a blender. Purée the mixture, adding about one cup of cooking liquid to make it smooth. Put the other half of the lentils into the large saucepan and pour in the lentil purée. Add 2 more cups of water, stir, and place on stove over medium heat.
Heat the sausages, onion and garlic in a large frying pan. (If you are using chicken or turkey sausages rather than pork, you might want to start with a tablespoon of oil.) Break up the sausage and cook until the onions are starting to brown and the sausage is almost cooked through, about 8 minutes.
Add the sausage mixture to the soup and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted.
Serve with slices of avocado and/or homemade croutons.
NOTES: Swiss chard or kale could be used in place of spinach. The sausage provides the bulk of this soup's wonderful flavor... but if you wanted to make it vegetarian, place the onion and garlic in the saucepan right away with the lentils, broth, and other vegetables, use vegetable broth in place of water (maybe 4 cups broth + 4 cups water?), and add some seasoned, baked tofu and juice of half a lemon toward the end to brighten the dish.