Lentil and Sausage Soup
Luck Be a Lentil: “For auld lang syne, my dear…for auld lang syne…we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne!” -Robert Burns
Well, it’s that time on the calendar that has everyone making lists and resolves for lofty ideals of soup and salad-only meals after the impossibly gluttonous Season’s Eatings. I know that between the cold (I need comfort food!) and the “It’s The Holidays! Have Another Cookie!” built-in excuses, I am ready to emerge from my food coma/cocoon, from the two-month long butter/sugar/cheese assault and am seriously considering juicing for a week so I can wear pants with zippers again. I’m sure you have no clue what I’m talking about, right? What would New Year’s be without the opportunity to forget the past and begin again with a clean, green start? And, while we’re at it, eat something that just might improve our fortune, too?
There are a variety of foods that are believed to be “lucky” which are traditionally consumed around the world on January 1st to improve the odds that the upcoming year will be prosperous. In Spain, for example, New Year’s revelers eat 12 grapes (for each stroke of the clock) at midnight. Since my grandmother’s parents were from Spain, I, too, carry on this ritual – but I cheat and take my grapes all at once, pressed, fermented and bubbling in a tall Champagne flute when the ball drops. Cooked greens and legumes are also popular symbols of financial reward – the greens look like folded money and beans, peas and lentils resemble coins as they swell when cooked. The Danes have their stewed kale, the Germans, their sauerkraut, and Southerners, we love us some collards and black-eyed peas.
But it was my husband who introduced me to eating lentils for luck (eschewing the southern must of black-eyed peas is not a sacrifice for me, sorry). It’s a very Italian thing (often served with pork since pigs symbolize progress) and that became part of his New Year’s tradition after living in Rome for so many years. Spoiler: This is me still green with envy of that pre-Cheryl life in the Eternal City.
So, it’s a warm, spicy soup with lentils and Italian sausage to ring in 2013 for us. And, if you’re superstitious (and who isn’t to some degree? Black cats, no walking under ladders, broken mirrors…) you may not want to tempt fate on 1-1-13. So, whether you feel the tug of eating better after the holiday bender or you want to ensure your happenstance this first of January, eat your lentils this way. Oh, and by the way, this soup will be the most delicious start to what I hope will be your best year yet, lucky you…all fat and happy.
Er, your bank account, I mean.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound ground Italian sausage
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup finely chopped carrot
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon thyme leaves
- 2 quarts lower-sodium chicken stock
- 1 pound lentils, picked over and rinsed
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the sausage and cook until no pink remains and well-browned all over, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon (break up any clumps). Drain the sausage on a paper towel-lined plate or bowl (blot any grease then remove the paper towels after drained) and wipe out the pan (there will still be some browned bits on the bottom–that’s okay). In the now-empty pot over medium heat, add the other tablespoon of olive oil and the butter and stir until melted. Toss in the onion, garlic, carrots and celery and season with salt and pepper; cook until the onions are translucent, about 6 to 7 minutes, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the bay leaves, tomato paste, cumin, thyme, stock, lentils and cooked sausage and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to just a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 35 to 40 minutes.
- Taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately.
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