Saturday, March 9, 2013

Vegetable Soup with French Lentils

We just had our third major winter storm here on Cape Cod with winds gusting up to 60 mph and a mixture of rain and snow spitting down from the sky. Not the ideal weather for taking the dog out, but perfect for diving into a big bowl of steaming hot soup. A bag of French lentils, or lentils du Puy,  have been staring me in the face for weeks.

Once I discovered these little green beauties, which are grown in the Le-Puy-en-Velay commune in the Haute Loire department of south-central France, I've never used any others. They remain firm after cooking and have a nutty flavor that I quite enjoy. While they're perfect for soup, they're also a nice addition to a salad, and I've used them to make Nepalese Dal.

So as Mother Nature unleashed yet another storm on the Northeast, this hearty soup made it just a little bit easier to bear.

French Lentil Vegetable Soup
Serves 6-8
1 yellow squash (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
1 zucchini (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
1/2 white onion (diced)
1/4 of a buttercup or butternut squash (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
2 carrots (diced)
2 large leaves of kale (chopped)
1 quart (32 oz or 946ml) vegetable stock
1.5 cups of leftover red sauce (I had some homemade marinara on hand. You could also use peeled, chopped tomatoes)
2 cups of water
1.5 teaspoons dry basil
1.5 teaspoons curry powder
1.5 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cooking the lentils: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup of French lentils. Simmer over medium heat until the lentils are tender. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water (after they're finished cooking as this keeps the legumes tender) and allow to sit for a few minutes.

Dice the onion, cut the buttercup squash into 1/2 inch cubes (peel first if using butternut). Add a tablespoon of olive oil to your soup pot, then add the onions, carrots and buttercup squash. Allow to cook for 5 minutes. Add the spices plus 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for another 3 minutes. Toss in the yellow and zucchini squash, then add the stock, tomato sauce and water. Cook over low to medium heat (gentle boil) for 15 minutes. Drain the lentils and add to the soup with the chopped kale. Allow to simmer another 5 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste, then serve.

Soup toppings:
We added crumbled goat cheese and roasted rosemary cashews, which give the soup a tangy flavor and nutty crunch.

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