cold weather comforts

Rainy days, gray skies, dark clouds, and a winter chill speak of warm, hearty comfort foods, curling up on the couch with a good book and a thick blanket, and perhaps a crackling fire.

Unfortunately, we don’t have fireplace, it snows rather than rains, and lately, this sort of weather has been more days than not.

So then the question becomes which hearty food on which day?

Recently, I discovered sausage lentil soup. Yes, I am the Christopher Columbus of sausage lentil soup, and nobody was harmed in the process – except the sausage. Regardless, this recipe has become one of my absolute favorites! It is hearty, rich, textured, and delicious. The soup can be made to varying degrees of spiciness either by using different sausage or adding more chili flakes – which makes it a soup worthy of all types of people: the weak stomached and the strong.

RECIPE:

1 pound green lentils
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large yellow onions, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons thyme
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes (or to taste)
3-4 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, diced
3 quarts chicken broth or equivalent in bouillon
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 small package frozen spinach (optional)
1 pound kielbasa, cut in 1/2 lengthwise and sliced 1/3-inch thick
1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 25 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes. (**note: use frozen mirapoix mix if you don’t have time to chop fresh onion, carrots, and celery)

Add the chicken broth, chili flakes, tomato paste, spinach, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender.

Check the seasonings. Add the kielbasa, red wine vinegar, and red wine and simmer until the kielbasa is hot. Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

For spicier soup: use spicy italian sausage or chorizo instead of kielbasa. Cut into small pieces and cook with vegetables prior to adding the broth.

Note: Use leeks instead of or in addition to onions for added flavor and texture.

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