5-Lentil Soup

I got chatting with a lovely woman in the therapy pool at physical therapy today, and wound up talking nonstop about food and recipes.  I talked about this soup, and only realized when I got home that I’ve never posted the recipe for my absolute favorite soup!

So here it is, in its current iteration:

5-Lentil Soup

List of Ingredients:  Brown, French, Beluga, White & Orange Lentils, Smoked Pork Necks, Ham Chunks, Diced Tomatoes (canned or fresh), Turnip, Parsnip, Celery, Carrots, Onion, Garlic, Bay Leaves, Zucchini, Chopped Spinach (fresh or frozen), Herbs & Spices.

Start by filling a soup kettle (I use a 12-quart one) halfway with cold water.  Add a package of smoked pork necks (I used about 4 pounds) and some chunks of ham, a large peeled onion, 3-4 cloves of peeled garlic, 4-5 ribs of celery with leaves if you have that, 2-3 carrots, and 2-5 bay leaves. Add a parsnip and turnip if available. This should pretty much fill the soup pot.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat, stirring occasionally.  Simmer this for a minimum of 3 hours. You want the veggies to be mush, and the meat bits falling off the bone.  Longer is better.

Let the stock cool enough to allow safe handling, and strain into another container (I usually use my 8-qt pot for this).  Remove the bones and bits of meat and save.  For a lower fat soup, chill overnight so the fat can be removed easily.  Reheat the stock to a boil and add the first round of lentils, and lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

I start with about a cup each of the five kinds of lentil. While they start simmering, chop 4-5 carrots, 2 inner stalks of celery, and 2 zucchini.  Adjust the amounts to your preferences and the size of your soup pot. When the lentils are tender, start adding additional lentils, so you’ll have them cooked to varying degrees of tenderness.  When these are back up to a simmer, add the carrots first, as they take longest to become tender. Let them simmer about 15 minutes and add the celery and zucchini. At this point, add a can of diced tomatoes (I use DelMonte Petite Diced with no added salt), and the chopped spinach (usually a block of frozen store brand). While all these ingredients are getting tender, clean the reserved meat off the bones, break up the ham chunks to bite size and add these to the soup.

At this point the soup broth will have started thicken a bit, so be sure to stir often so it doesn’t stick or scorch.  Next season the soup:  I add about a teaspoon of cumin, thyme, Italian seasoning, paprika about 3 Tablespoons of dried parsley or about half a bunch chopped of fresh. Add whatever other herbs and spices suit your tastes. Occasionally I’ll add a little smoked paprika or a shake of cayenne pepper.

I like to serve the lentil soup over any small-sized pasta (I use Barilla gluten-free elbow macaroni), and add a goodly amount of grated cheese at the table.  It’s also gorgeous with a good french bread for dipping.

This soup freezes very well too.  It will get thicker on sitting, so sometimes adding a bit of extra broth (any type) is needed for the leftovers.

Mangiamo!

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Onion Tears

We have a family recipe book that I started about 30 years ago — with copies given as Christmas gifts that year. I got my Aunt to help me write-up my Nonna’s recipes, and added my mothers’ and my own.

But today I was trying to remember what kind of onions Nonna used to saute for sauce. And I realized there was no one left to ask. It brought my sister’s death to such poignancy it took my breath for a moment. I’m it now. Three generations of women consolidated in one tired, fairly worn-around-the-edges, nearly 66 year old woman.

And I still don’t know what kind of onions she used for sauce.

On the First Day of Summer

My sister Mary died on the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2018.  I’m not ready to write about it yet, but I came across a phrase in some Facebook post this morning that lead me directly here, with a need to start sharing the wealth and sorrows leading up to this summer that began in death.

Until I find my own words, I’d like to share some of Mary Oliver’s.  This is one of the poems read at her memorial service:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver

On the Other Hand….

This is heart of all that is wrong with America, and until we allow a full and complete reckoning of how we got here, we won’t all have the same full rights promised in the Declaration. It’s not too late, but it’s damn close.

Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech is (and should be) difficult to read as a white American. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

 

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/what-american-slave-your-4th-july-frederick-douglass-1852-speech-ncna888736

 

Traditions


Every summer I am again moved by the Declaration of Independence. As a flawed but brilliant statement of human rights, there is no other to compare to it. This fourth it is more pertinent than ever. The list of injustices and usurpations is astonishingly familiar right now.

NPR annually reads the declaration, deeply, clearly, and meaningfully. Here is the site for this year’s recitation:

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/04/623836154/a-july-4-tradition-npr-reads-the-declaration-of-independence?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20180704

George’s Creek

I started this post 3 years ago. Lovely people have been living there, and in the house they built “downstream” from the first. The creek is practically gone. The clash of values in me and others remains. How to balance the need of people to have homes and gardens, backyards and driveways, versus the birds, fish, snails, and turtles who rely on the remaining bits of nature in the suburbs.

a pensive George

My beloved cat George, who passed away a year ago, regularly brought me fish from the creek across the street. He loved that creek, and often came home wet and muddy up to his belly.

For the first time, I’m glad George is gone, because they are killing his creek. Today they are clearing trees off the lot right opposite my drive, George’s spot for fishing, and the man working there told me they would be putting in culvert — closing up the creek into concrete pipe. Does anyone think fish like living in a concrete pipe rather than an open creek with light and growing things and silt to burrow in?

I’m so sad. Development, progress, whatever you call it, shouldn’t have to harm the small beauties and little lives.

Stracciatella

stracciatella-6While homemade broth was simmering yesterday, I suddenly remembered a favorite quick lunch my Nonna made when I visited. Her homemade chicken broth, tiny noodles (pastina, flakes, or tiny circles) with an egg-grated cheese mixture drizzled in as it boiled. Quick, easy, nutritious, and easy to digest.

Some recent and persistent stomach issues are making me dig deep for comfort foods! By the way, it was delicious!

Stracchiatella

  • About 2 cups chicken broth (of course homemade is best) per person
  • small pasta shapes cooked right in the broth
  • Beat 1 egg per person with about 1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano (I use a combo)
  • When pasta is al dente, pour the egg mixture slowly into the simmering soup, stirring quickly with a fork.
  • Some variations: add fresh chopped parsley, grated carrots, or chopped spinach.

Voilà!

Three AM Al Fredo

Some friends suggested I write up this story and recipe, so here it is.

3 AM  Al Fredo

vegan-alfredo-sauce-pasta7When I was a teenager I sometimes made myself pasta for a late-night meal. One night I had the pasta nearly ready to drain when my father came home (in those days one of the restaurants he had was an  after-theater bistro in midtown and he often came in close to dawn). He asked if I had a enough to share, and what I was going to put on it.  I said there was plenty and I was just going to put butter and grated cheese. He asked if I was interested in learning a quick sauce and then taught me this:

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the water. On low heat, melt some butter in the pot along with the reserved water, beat in a bunch of cream, a lightly beaten egg yolk, and stir in grated parmesan or romano cheese. Toss with the pasta and serve.  The egg is optional, he said, but it’s richer with it.

We ate it together and then went our separate ways to bed.  It wasn’t until years later when Alfredo sauce was all the rage that I realized what he’d taught me to make.

Ingredients
1 lb. pasta cooked al dente & drained
½ cup of the cooking water
4 oz butter
1-1 ½ cup cream (any kind – the richer the cream, the richer the sauce)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten (optional)
¼ cup grated “Italian” cheese
sprinkle of pepper to taste (optional)

Melt butter in a saucepan or skillet, adding in the reserved pasta water. Add cream and egg, stirring constantly. Add the grated cheese. Simmer gently for a minute or so, then toss with pasta, topping with a sprinkle of fresh black pepper. Add more cheese at the table to taste.

Das Fuhrer Trump?

Okay, I’m now ready to say it outright:

Donald J. Trump is a Fascist.

He’s closely following the Nazi’s playbook from 1930’s Germany. He is a danger to everyone. He is not stupid, he manipulates, lies, whips his followers into a fury, incites violence, has no respect for human life, denigrates women and minorities. In short, in all seriousness, I believe he is looking to become a dictator.

His constant repeating of simple catch phrases, embedded with words and phrases that skew people’s thinking: how we need a strongman as leader, we’re in an economic disaster; we have weak government; the need to do things we’ve never done before. This is familiar turf. So is the scapegoating of a religious/ethnic group. So is telling big lies, over and over, in hopes of making people believe it.

We need to call on the Republican Party (such as it is) to disown and denounce Trump. He cannot be allowed to turn this nation into one made in his image.

He terrifies me. I am far more frightened by Donald Trump than ISIS. ISIS can attack us, Trump can destroy us from the inside out. We have an example of a strong speaker who gathered obscene power to him through fear and atrocities. I believe he’s capable of the same. Donald Trump, Sieg Heil!