A couple of weeks ago, those of us living in this area were treated to a number of weather forecasts warning of an impending snowstorm. Depending on the day and the forecaster, the predicted snowfall ranged from as little as an inch or two to as much as ten inches of the white stuff. When the results vary this greatly, I rarely go out and stock up on supplies to carry me through a blizzard. So long as I’ve got eggs, flour, and cheese, I can make enough pasta to last days — and that doesn’t take into account the food in my freezers. To quote a great American philosopher, “What, me worry?”
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This time around, I found myself in a grocery on Thursday, two days before the first great snow of the year was to hit. I bought my regular items without giving the forecasts a second thought. At one point, I was in the bulk food area looking for seeds for Lucy, my parrot, when I stumbled upon French green lentils. (These aren’t Puy lentils but I’ll take what I can get.) I bought some thinking that one day I’d use them to prepare and blog about my family’s method of cooking lentils. That was the plan.
Come Saturday morning, the storm was hitting the southern part of Illinois and headed for Chicago. Forecasts were now saying we’d get 5 or 6 inches before the storm passed on. This usually means that I would be spending an hour or so clearing snow from my walk, as well as those of my neighbors. (They’re all retirees and I hate to see them out there, shovel in hand, clearing their walks.) I remembered how nice it is to come into my kitchen, having just finished my snow removal duties, and smelling a pot of soup on the stove. That’s it. I’d make a pot of soup.
Well, apparently, I had used the last of the chicken stock the week before when I made risotto. Worse, I’d used the last of the chicken bones, along with my vegetable clippings, to make that stock. I was just about to give up the idea of making soup when I saw the lentils on my countertop. This will work. The ingredients for today’s recipe were all in supply in my kitchen, except for the thyme. I thought of that when I went into the yard to make sure everything was stored before the big storm arrived.
As luck would have it, the vegetable stock was ready and although there was rain, there was no snow. I waited a couple of hours and still no snow. I went ahead and cooked the lentils — still no snow. I ate my dinner and eventually about an inch of snow fell, none of which “stuck” to the walks.
All told, it was a pretty good day: my home carried the aroma of stock simmering on the stove; I enjoyed a comforting lentil dinner; and, I didn’t need to go out and deal with any snow whatsoever. May our weather men’s predictions for snow always fall short, just as they did that Saturday afternoon.
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Stormy Lentils Recipe
- 1 cup (190 g) French green lentils
- 6 cups (1420 ml) vegetable stock, separated, more or less to taste (see Notes)
- 2 tbsp olive oil plus more if needed
- 2 Bartolini sausage patties (about 8 oz; 225 g) — link sausages may be substituted, skin removed
- 1 celery stalk, chopped small
- 1 small onion, chopped small
- 1 carrot, chopped small
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
- red pepper flakes, to taste – optional
- 1 small can (14.5 oz; 411 g) diced tomatoes
- thyme to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pick through the lentils removing any small pebbles or grit that you may find. Rinse them under cold running water. Drain.
- Place the lentils in a medium sauce pan and cover with 1 quart (950 ml) of vegetable stock. Bring to a boil over med-high heat before lowing to a soft simmer.
- Meanwhile, place the sausage meat into a frying pan over med-high heat. As it cooks, use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into small pieces.
- After about 5 minutes, add the onion, carrot, and celery. You may need to add a bit more oil to moisten the pan. Continue to sauté until the vegetables are cooked but still al dente – about 7 to 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and optional red pepper flakes. Continue cooking for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes, 1 cup of vegetable stock, and the thyme, if using. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
- As the lentils cook, use a large spoon to remove any foam that may surface in the liquid.
- After simmering for 30 minutes, clear the remaining foam from the surface and pour the lentils and liquid into the pot with the tomato sauce. Bring to a boil before covering and reducing to a simmer.
- After 15 minutes, check the lentils. If too dry, add more vegetable stock. If too soupy, keep uncovered and allow some of the excess liquid to boil off. The dish is ready when the lentils are cooked and the consistency you prefer.
- Serve immediately and if I’m seated at the table, have some grated Pecorino Romano nearby.
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No need to run to a store to buy vegetable stock. Into a medium size sauce pan, place one quartered onion, 2 roughly chopped celery stalks, 2 roughly chopped carrots, a few parsley stems, 2 smashed garlic cloves, and a quartered tomato or 1 – 2 tbsp tomato paste. Fill with water, bring to a boil, and then lower to a soft simmer. Continue to cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Season lightly with salt and pepper before straining the vegetables. You will easily have enough stock for this recipe. Refrigerate whatever stock is left over.
Before bringing to the table, add as much stock as you prefer. This can be served relatively dry or with enough stock to resemble a soup.
You may notice that leftover lentils will absorb whatever stock is left in the bowl. Use the refrigerated stock to moisten the lentils when you reheat them.
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What’s this? More bad weather on the way?
While this recipe sat innocently in the queue waiting to be posted, an arctic blast descended upon sweet home Chicago. As luck would have it, I had just bought ham hocks at the grocery the day before. So, as the temperatures dropped, there was a pot of vegetable stock simmering on the stove, to be replaced by a pot of lentils later in the day. This time, however, with its use of ham hocks, the recipe is the same as the one prepared by my family years ago. Comfort and nostalgia served in one bowl.
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It’s déjà vu all over again …
As was implied above, our current weather means it’s time for soup. With that in mind, I’m sending you back to Mom’s broth recipe, her brodo. That one pot of stock would be used to make noodle soup, risotto, gravies, and, of course, to soothe our upset tummies. You can learn all about this wonder broth by clicking HERE.
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Coming soon to a monitor near you …
Smothered Pork Chops
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