A most excellent soup

I love fall.  Where I live, it is still clear and warm during the day but the air gets a definite bite at night.  When the evenings get cool, my thoughts turn from salads to warm food.  I want things that cook on the stove top for extended periods of time, food that roasts in the oven, perfuming the air with the scent of good flavors.

 

I have been intending to make Lentil Minestrone for weeks.  I got a dutch oven for my birthday last month and I have wanted to try it out but soup just wasn’t meant to be until today.  I stumbled onto the recipe while looking up something entirely different.  The soup makes good use of pantry items and staple veggies.  The only problem I had is that the dutch oven I got turned out to be a bit small for this particular soup recipe.  I have a three and a half quart dutch oven.  This recipe makes more like four or five quarts of soup.  The soup should have been brothier than it turned out, but I was determined to use my new pot so I used much less vegetable stock than called for.  I enjoy a thick lentil soup anyway.  I also traded out some of the herbs and flavorings called for in the original recipe with items I already had.  The herbs seemed a little more French inspired so I went with Italian herbs instead.  It was a good choice.  Redolent with parsley, rosemary and fresh bay leaves, this soup was delicious!

 

Lentil Minestrone

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 tbsp tomato paste

¼ cup chopped parsley

4 large garlic cloves

3 carrots, diced

1 cup celery, diced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup French lentils, rinsed

3 fresh bay leaves (or 2 dried)

8 branches parsley

2 branches fresh rosemary

6 cups vegetable broth

Soy sauce to taste

1 bunch chard, washed thoroughly and chopped

1 cup dry pennete (or any small pasta of your choice)

Optional toppings:  drizzle of olive oil, shredded parmesan

 

Heat the oil over medium heat in a dutch oven.  Add onions and saute for ten minutes until lightly caramelized.  Add tomato paste, chopped parsley, garlic, carrots, celery, salt and pepper.  Cook for another three minutes.  Add lentils, bay leaves, parsley branches, rosemary branches and vegetable broth.  Bring to a simmer and cook thirty minutes.  Meanwhile, boil water for pasta in a small pot.  Boil water for chard in a large pot.  Boil pasta according to package directions until al dente, drain and set aside.  Cook chard for three to five minutes, drain and set aside.  When the soup has cooked for thirty minutes, season the soup with soy sauce to taste.  Remove the parsley branches, rosemary branches and bay leaves.  Stir in the cooked pasta and chard right before serving.  If you would like, serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan.  The soup is wonderful without these condiments.

 

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Fun with Lamb Shanks

lamb-orzo-soup.jpg

Weekends are when I plan the meals for the week.  I take a look at the specials at our local gourmet/natural foods store and often plan a couple of meals around what I find at bargain prices.  This week, lamb shanks were $2.99 per pound, which sounded like quite a bargain to me.

 

I’ve had lamb shanks at restaurants a couple of times and they have not disappointed me.  I made them at home one time and although I loved how tender they got, the sauce wasn’t a winner.  I went online to Epicurious to see if I could find a better recipe and I stumbled onto a soup recipe instead.  The soup had quite the greek style influence to it so I was immediately attracted to the recipe.

 

I don’t often fiddle with a recipe the first time out, but the comments on Epicurious said that the recipe needed some garlic and that sautéing the ingredients in the stock made a world of difference so I tried the suggestions.  The soup turned out pretty good but it wasn’t as wonderful as I imagined it to be.  Three pounds of lamb shanks were a bit excessive.  If you try this recipe, you may want to cut down on the amount of meat.  My boyfriend felt the soup was a bit “lamby”.  Normally this would be a turn off to me too but I felt like the meat was good quality and didn’t have a gamey flavor.  I just felt that the soup was a bit greasy and had more meat than necessary.  I would definitely make the soup again with 2 lbs of shanks and I might add another veggie like some zucchini or extra carrots.  However, with a multigrain baguette and a glass of 2002 Sunstone Syrah, this soup made a mighty fine meal.

Spinach, lamb and orzo soup

Adapted from July 1992 Bon Appetit magazine

 

3 tbs olive oil, divided

 

7 cups water

 

1 15 oz can chicken stock

 

2 – 3 pounds lamb shanks (go with the full amount if you love lamb more than anything you can think of)

 

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

 

1 carrot, chopped

 

1 onion, chopped

 

1 celery stalk, chopped

 

1 dried bay leaf or two fresh bay leaves

 

1 small onion, sliced

 

¾ cup orzo

 

1 large head of spinach, chopped

 

freshly grated parmesano reggiano

 

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepot.  Sauté garlic, carrot, onion, celery and bay leaf until veggies start to soften.  Add lamb shanks and brown them on all sides.  Add water and stock to the pot.  Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.  Simmer until the lamb is tender about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Transfer lamb to a plate and cool slightly.  Remove the meat from the bone and cut into ½” pieces.  Strain the cooking liquid and reserve.

 

In the same pot, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil over medium heat.  Add the sliced onion and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.  Add the reserved cooking liquid, the lamb meat and the orzo.  Cook soup over medium heat for 20 minutes until the orzo is al dente.  Add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.  Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese.