I love lentils. I love red lentils, brown lentils, French lentils. I love them Indian style, with mustard seeds, ginger, cayenne, and garlic. I love them Mediterranean style, with onions, celery, carrots, thyme, and parsley. I love them with just rice and salt. Sometimes I cook a pot of lentils and rice together, which we will eat plain, or add to broth and veggies for fantastic soup. My family’s favorite soup, by far, is lentil soup with mild Italian sausage, and lots of pepper. Here’s my recipe:

Lentil soup with Italian Sausage

1 large onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
6 cups good quality chicken, turkey, or vegetable broth, preferably home-made
2 bay leaves
1/2 t dried thyme, or 1 t fresh
2 T fresh chopped parsley
2-4 T tomato paste
about 1/2 pound Italian sausage
2 cups cooked lentils, French or brown
1-2 cups cooked rice, I like long-grain brown rice

If you need to cook the lentils and rice, put 1 cup rice and 1 cup lentils in a large saucepan with about 4 cups water, bring to boil, lower heat to very low and simmer 45 minutes.

In a large soup-pot on medium heat, saute the onion in the olive oil until soft. Add celery and carrots, continue to saute for 10-15 minutes, adding more oil if the veggies begin to stick to the pan, until the onions are beginning to caramelize and the celery is soft. Add broth, bay leaves, thyme, and parsley, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves, add tomato paste, and stir to dissolve.

Meanwhile, heat a saute pan on medium-high. If you have sausage links, you can either cook them as-is, then chop, or run a sharp knife down the length of them and remove the casing, break up into chunks, and saute until cooked through. Add to the soup, along with the lentils and rice. Heat through, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with some good bread.

If you have a local sausage-maker, get your sausage there. It will be much fresher, and taste better. Sometimes I use more broth, to extend the soup for leftovers the next day. I would add chopped canned tomatoes, but I get too many objections from members of the household who are under 6.

Tonight, I’m going to experiment with French lentils, lots of parsley, and some dried mint. I’m not sure how the boys will like this, but so far, they’ve never turned down a bowl of lentils. Especially if they can add the salt themselves. I think I will pair it with a bulgur-rice pilaf, and a salad of romaine, red-wine vinaigrette, and a little Feta.

Kiki just rolled over for the first time!!!