Written by Julie Van Rosendaal
Today, with a foot of fluffy snow outside and having just taught a class on homemade soup, I'm in soup mode. I love soup - it's simple and easy (it took me awhile to realize that the two aren’t the same), because measurements are totally up to you and you can use whatever you have in the kitchen. Besides, I’ve just discovered this homemade yeast bread that requires neither kneading nor talent and begs to be dunked into a bowl of soup – look for that in the next issue!
One of the tricks I use to boost flavor in soup without adding additional fat is to roast whatever it is I'm putting in the soup - even roasting a chicken carcass until it's browned will make a richer, deeper-colored stock. Roasting veggies makes wonderful soup - cut them into chunks, toss with a little oil and roast on a cookie sheet (don't forget a few cloves of garlic!) until golden on the edges. Scrape it all into a pot, add some stock or a can of tomatoes or V8, whiz some or all of it in a blender (a hand held immersion blender is best for this) and voila – you have soup.
Roasting tomatoes is a great way to use up ones that are going wrinkly, and makes far better tomato soup than you’d get from a can. Spread out whole grape tomatoes, halved roma tomatoes or quartered beefsteak tomatoes on a baking sheet with lots of garlic, oil and salt and pepper, and roast at 450°F until they darken on the edges and release their juice, then scrape it all into a blender and whiz. It's a great way to make pasta sauce too. Here's what I'm making today:
Simple Lentil Soup
Willem loves lentils, which is a good thing because most other vegetables get spit out. I know it sounds iffy, but water, sausage, celery and lentils really do transform into a perfect soup that keeps for a week in the fridge and actually improves with age. This is what I make when I know things are going to get busy and I want to be sure there's something healthy to grab for lunch or dinner that counts as a meal all in itself. Add some garlic and a carrot if you like, and leftover bits of ham are really good instead of the sausage.
Canola or olive oil, for cooking with
1 mild or hot Italian sausage
4 celery ribs, chopped, including the leaves
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can lentils, drained
4 cups water, chicken or vegetable stock
½ tsp. sea salt
A few grinds of black pepper
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil over medium heat. Add the onion (if you want) and squeeze the sausage out of its casing into the pan. Cook, breaking up the chunks of sausage, until both onions and sausage are browned. You don’t have to worry about cooking them through.
Add the celery, lentils, water, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for half an hour or so, adding extra liquid if it cooks off. If you’d like it thicker, remove the lid and simmer until it’s the consistency you like.
Makes about 6 grown-up servings. Every day I post my own dinner solutions on my new website – dinnerwithjulie.com