Monday, January 11, 2016

Italian Lentil Soup

It's taken a while, but the winter weather has finally shown it's face here in Arkansas.  No, no snow flurries or frost just yet but we've finally experienced some chilly weather and dipped below freezing a time or two.  And what does all that mean?

Well, it's FINALLY time for soups and stews!  Cozy foods.  The foods I long for this time of year!

This past Sunday was prime soup weather.  I mean, we woke up to the high for the day and the temperature steadily dropped all day one.  Can you say cold?

So what better time to break out the crock-pot and whip up a big batch of soup?

Oh, and our church was also hosting an event and soups were on the menu.  So it just happened to be an all around perfect day for soup.

I love "dump soups".  You know, those soups where you just open up packages and cans and dump them in the pot and let them cook away?  Those are the just the best recipes.  And you know, that's exactly what this one is.
Since I was making an obscenely large amount of soup I decided it would be best to break out the crock-pot, dump in (almost) all of the ingredients and let it cook over night so it would be ready to take to church the next morning.  The next morning I woke up to the most amazing smell of this soup simmering away.  About 15 minutes before we were ready to serve it, I added in the collard greens and sausage.  This was just enough time to allow the greens to soften slightly.

Oh, and let me talk about these greens for a second?  I've added spinach to numerous soups I've made in the past and it is delicious, but it does lose the bit of crunch it has in it's raw state.  But these greens, well those are a different story.  Aside from adding a pop of color (which my MaMaw would LOVE), they also add some texture to the soup because they keep their texture and add a slight crunch to every bite.
This is one of those soups that fits all food groups; leave out the meat and you've got a vegan soup, add some cheese and it's vegetarian, and add sausage and you're pleasing the carnivores!  However you decide to make it you will have a big pot of flavorful soup that will make you feel all cozy and keep you warm on those winter days ahead.

Italian Lentil Soup

2 Cups white onion, diced (about 1 large onion)
1 Cup carrots, diced (about 2 large carrots, peeled)
1 Cup celery, diced (about 2 stalks of celery, washed and leaves removed)
4 Cloves garlic, peeled and minced
7-8 Cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 Cup red lentils, rinsed
1 (15oz) Can diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 Bay leaves
1/4 Tsp dried oregano
1/4 Tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Tsp salt
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 Cups collard greens, roughly chopped
1 Pound sweet Italian sausage, cooked and drained, optional

To serve-
freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional
fresh chopped parsley or basil, optional


Crock-pot directions-

In a large crock-pot combine all ingredients except collard greens and sausage.  Stir the mixture to combine and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or high for 4 to 5, until lentils are tender.  About 10 minutes before serving add the collard greens and sausage, if using, and allow to cook until greens are slightly tender, stirring occasionally.  Taste, adjust seasonings and serve.

Stove top directions-
Pour 2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil in a large stockpot and place over medium-high heat.  Once the pot is hot add the onions, carrots and celery and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and onions are translucent.  Add garlic, stir to combine and cook an additional 30 seconds.

Add the remaining ingredients except collard greens and stir to combine.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (medium-low) and cover the pot partially with the lid.  Keep the soup at a low simmer and cook for about 25-30 minutes, until lentils are tender and cooked through, being sure to stir occasionally.

Add the collard greens, stir to combine and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, until the greens have softened slightly.  Taste, adjust seasonings if needed.  Remove bay leaves and serve.

Leftovers can be store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

*to make this soup vegetarian use vegetable stock instead of chicken.
*to make this soup vegan use vegetable stock and do not add the cheese.

Recipe source: barely adapted from Gimme Some Oven

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