Lentil Soup with Sausage, Greens and Garlic

Is it okay to sub green lentils for brown? Leeks for onions? Collards for kale? Hot sausage for sweet? Parmesan for pecorino? Those were the easy questions. What is biodynamic? Where is the recycling? Can you unknot this apron string? Those were a bit more challenging. Nonetheless, our first class of spring semester got off to a roaring start. In addition to six new students (plus two returning), I was delighted to welcome Christina Stein as our classroom volunteer. A parent of three and enthusiastic home cook, she is a natural, full of ideas and enthusiasm for this work.
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Wendy, Erick, David, Kristin, & Micah Haakenson (photo: Dennis Lussier)

I am also over-the-moon grateful for the produce donated by farmers Erick and Wendy Haackenson of Jubilee Biodynamic Farm this semester. Many folks know the Carnation farm, which has been farming organically (both certified and not) for over 20 years, through its CSA program and popular farm tours and fall festival. The Haakensons do not sell at farmers markets, only at the farm and through farm box delivery. You simply can’t get better food than what they grow.

IMG_2905After a fun kitchen safety quiz, I asked the kids to fantasize about foods they would like to cook. Souffles, sushi, and reindeer were some of the cheeky responses. They nibbled on oranges and sunflower seeds while I gave an overview of “farm to table” and the goal of moving the needle toward a sustainable food system by eating whole, local, and seasonal foods. When I wrote DIVERSITY = HEALTH on the board, intending to talk about biodiversity from gut flora to crops, a student called out “eat the rainbow!” Exactly. If the micro/macro diversity concept is the one thing that sticks, I’ll be satisfied with our efforts. (Coincidentally, there is a crepe paper rainbow festooning the class, put there by the Gay Straight Alliance, which also meets in the classroom. Diversity FTW!)

horseradishNext the kids lined up and took turns plucking items from the farm box or grocery bag, venturing guesses as to whether the item was whole, processed, organic, seasonal, or local, and what dishes it could be used in. They love this activity, and it occurred to me that there is some holiday type magic in it. It’s like opening presents! Pictured are Lilly, Megan, and Henry pondering fresh horseradish root burdock root. I had never seen it raw before either!

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The collard greens from the farm box were beautiful, and made a nice substitute for the chard in the original recipe. We talked about the difference in texture of various greens, tender spinach needing the least time to cook, and tougher collards the most. Overcooked greens in soup can be prevented by adding them in the last few minutes of cooking.

IMG_2917 The kids took turns trimming, washing, and slicing slender leeks. While not called for in the recipe, they were a fine substitution for half an onion, and provided a good lesson in being creative with the produce at hand.

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Slicing and dicing in a sunny kitchen can be a blissful activity.

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Parmigiano-Reggiano, made from cow’s milk, is less salty than the sheep’s milk Pecorino Romano called for in the recipe, but perfectly fine, and what we had on hand. Hana sliced garlic for the soup and finishing oil, and Megan minced some for the butter that would season the toasts. I made a mental note to procure a pastry brush.

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Cooking lead Timmy carefully browned the sausage, omitting the original recipe’s red pepper, as the seasoning in the sausage would suffice. While the soup simmered on the stove, I launched the “Nourish” DVD, a great introduction to our food system. It features Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, Bryant Terry, Anna Lappé, Dr. Nadine Burke, and other voices of the food movement. (Next week, we’ll discuss what they learned.)

IMG_2918Christina and I tidied up while the kids set a lovely table. No matter how mismatched, actual dishes and linens are so much nicer than disposable, but I make an exception for napkins (dirty aprons, towels, and runners are quite enough to take home and wash each week!). The kids like to put the paper napkins in the glasses, like tissue paper in gift bags. Cute.

IMG_2921While the soup smelled heavenly, the green lentils — to my chagrin — were taking longer than expected to soften (if I’d done my research, I would have known that). We tasted and waited, tasted and waited, and then, at the latest possible moment, ladled the soup into bowls, floated garlic oil on top, snatched the toasts from the oven, and sat down to dine. Lilly gave thanks to everyone for a good job, and a hush fell as ten hot spoons met ten pursed mouths.

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Yes, the lentils were a smidge chewy, and the garlic toasts could have been crisper. But the flavor. Oh, my, there was no denying it. Each of us, including several staff members who “happened” to be within sharing range, gave the meal high praise. This recipe is a keeper, and I suspect it would be equally delicious vegetarian, sans saucisson.

If you’ve never seen a tableful of tweens slurping soup they’ve cooked from scratch, let me tell you, it does a heart good.

RECIPE

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Lentil Soup with Sausage, Greens, and Garlic

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen. This soup is hearty, wholesome, and adaptable, requiring only water for liquid but delivering lots of flavor and depth. Make it vegetarian by skipping the sausage, or vegan by omitting sausage and cheese. Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided

  • 2-3 large links of hot Italian sausage, casings removed

  • 1 medium onion, diced

    (or 1/2 onion and 1 leek if desired)

  • 2 celery stalks, diced

  • 2 medium carrots, diced

  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced (reserve half for later in recipe)

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed

  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

  • 6 cups water

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 to 4 cups thinly ribboned greens (chard, kale, beet greens, spinach, or collards)

  • Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to finish

Directions

  1. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pot) in a large pot on medium heat. When hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about five minutes.

  2. Add the onion, celery, carrots, first two garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of red pepper. Cook until the vegetables soften a bit, another 5 minutes.

  3. Add the lentils, tomatoes, and water.

  4. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes.

  5. Add the greens and cook until the leaves are tender.

  6. To finish, divide soup among bowls, then add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 garlic cloves to a small skillet and heat over medium until the garlic softens and hisses. Drizzle this over soup bowls, and top with fresh cheese, passing more at the table. Leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge.

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Categories: Entree, Kid Favorite, Soup

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