I visited my parents and sisters’ family for a week in Southern Cal. without my kids (which is almost criminal) and when I come home I usually cook a few meals for the family. Mom has not been well for the last month and I came to give Dad a break and bring some cheer to mom. Mom is gluten free, like so many other people she is allergic to gluten and eating for her is not as joyous as it once used to be. She isn’t a cook, she would rather be shopping or anything but in the kitchen for hours on end. My Dad usually does the cooking and he doesn’t mind since he is a retired fireman, he had plenty of time to learn some great recipes, but he has run out of ideas of what to fix mom because she is also a bit finicky too. I set out to make something she would enjoy on one of the cooler days and this soup idea came to mind. I hoped she would like the lentils and other vegetables I put into the soup. I was surprised at how much she did like it, even Dad enjoyed the soup too, probably because he he didn’t have to cook :).
I choose lentils because they aren’t a usual food staple for my parents or my family. I was glad to introduce them to this wonderful little power pack source of protein, fiber and iron. Lentils are from the legume family and get their name from the flat shape of a lens. There are different colors of lentils red, brown and green. Lentils do not require soaking like beans do, just a good washing and pick through. Lentils have a mild flavor that resembles beans but stands on it’s own. In the soup I made, I used what my parents pantry had on hand but feel it could have used more herbs so feel free to add thyme or oregano and a bay leaf to your soup. The soup goes together quickly and from prep to eating is about 40 minutes. Make sure you garnish with fresh Parmesan cheese since it really adds to the over all flavor of the soup.
Italian Lentil Soup
1 cup dried lentils
6 cups water, broth or stock of any sort
1 6 inch uncooked Italian hot sausage link with skin removed and chopped
1/2 a large onion chopped fine
1/2 a red bell pepper chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
3 oz. tomato paste
1 14.5 oz. can of organic Italian stewed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt (if using stock or broth taste before adding salt)
1/2 tsp. garlic pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove pressed
1 medium zucchini sliced and quartered
chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Step 1: Rinse the lentils in cold water by putting them into a colander with small holes. Pick out any rocks or anything you find that doesn’t resemble a lentil. Get a large pot and pour the 6 cups of liquid that you plan to use in the soup and add the lentils and chopped sausage. Turn heat to medium high.
Step 2: In a saute pan saute onion, bell pepper and carrots with a tablespoon of olive oil together until crisp tender. Then add to the lentils.
Step 3: Add can of stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, dried herbs, garlic, garlic pepper, red pepper flakes let lentils come to a boil then simmer until lentils are tender.
Step 4: When lentils are tender add the chopped zucchini since this only takes a few minutes to soften. When the zucchini is softened to you liking serve in a shallow bowel with grated fresh Parmesan cheese on top and chopped fresh parsley.