lentil sausage soup

lentil soup

Learning to make good soup has been a lot of trial and error for me. When I started out I would make the rookie mistake of just throwing everything into a pot and covering it with water. Now I know you need to build a soup gradually, nurturing it along, adding each item at just the right moment to let the flavors layer onto each other for just the right amount of time.

lentils

My lentil soup recipe is very representative of this philosophy. When I started making lentil soup, it was – well – depressing. Brown and gloppy, and overwhelmingly lentil-y. Even when I added chopped ham it was far from inspiring. Then I discovered French green lentils, which helped tremendously. Then I discovered adding enough stock to let the lentils dance around in the bowl instead of binding into mush. Then the addition of noodles and chunks of spicy pork sausage crowned the rendition. I still vary the soup considerably, but I seldom veer from the basic formula. It works.

chicken stock

chicken stock

First, the broth. Every time I roast a chicken I make a simple stock from the carcass, and freeze it in variously sized containers. I will often just thaw a quart or so of stock, then add water to fill out the pot. Every bit of extra flavor helps, but don’t feel the need to use nothing but stock, especially if the other ingredients are assertive. Get the stock and any additional water warm and ready to go before you start cooking.

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sole with lentils and breadcrumb salad

sole with lentils and breadcrumb salad

Boy, this dinner was a smashing success if I do say so myself. We had been pondering what to do for food one night, and I was idly considering something involving fish, since we were about to go to the grocery store. I opened up a few cookbooks and flipped through their fish sections…many of them too complicated, too weird-sounding, wrong kind of fish…then, in Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen, a book I hadn’t yet made a thing out of (but I sure do love the Palace Kitchen and Serious Pie, two of his restaurants), I saw a heading for pan-roasted halibut with herbed lentils and toasted breadcrumb salad.

For some reason, the thought of that just really did it for me, so I headed to the fish case with my eyes peeled for halibut. They had had halibut cheeks a few days previously, but of course they were out – so I ended up getting a few fillets of very fresh, beautiful looking Dover sole.

Because I had such a delicate fish, I ignored the recipe’s instructions for cooking halibut and instead just tossed the fillets in a pan with some butter and pan fried them very lightly. Other than that I followed the recipe pretty closely, with just a few small adjustments on the fly.

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