Category Archives: LENTILS

SIMPLE PLEASURES, LENTIL SOUP WITH PANCETTA (ITALIAN CURED BACON)

008 A complete meal in a bowl, how nice is that?  A steaming bowl of Lentil Soup for me is about the most reassuring food that says “all is right with the world”, basically it’s a big hug from someone that loves you.  The humble lentil is one of nature’s powerhouses ( i hate the term superfood because it conjures up fads in food and I don’t buy into that) in terms of nutrition.  Not going to bore you with that type of post but seriously if your body needs a great punch of nutrients this bowl is just the thing.  Lentils are not an Italian exclusive, they are eaten in every part of the world where they are grown because they are plentiful, cheap and so good for you.  All that aside let’s talk their taste, it’s unique and it’s delicious and LOVES to soak up the flavors of whatever other ingredients you are cooking with.  No shocker here but I’m going to give  you my recipe for an Italian   bowl of LENTILS.  This version is made with a base of vegetables, aromatics and PANCETTA.  Pancetta is an UNSMOKED cured Italian BACON. Highlighting UNSMOKED.  Can you make a lentil soup with smoked bacon?  Of course, in fact Lentils seem to really pop when you cook them with any pork, whether it be Chorizo, Italian Sausage, Salumi, Guanciale, American or other types of Smoked Bacon, ham,  so do not read my comments as saying the other meats are wrong..but for that gorgeous pot of lentils I made in the picture above I used PANCETTA.  For those wishing for this with no meat at all increase your aromatics, herbs, onions, etc. for extra flavor.  Unseasoned lentils for me just not worth my time but seasoning with meats or vegetables and herbs makes them shine.  Back to this post though, find the pancetta and maybe this could be your first time using it…how awesome is that when you open yourself up to something new!!

In this very active and vivid memory bank of mine I equate the aroma of lentils cooking with coming home from school in Staten Island NYC to my Mom making a nice big pot..while outside the day is dark, grey, rainy, cold, raw the mere whiff of the lentils was like two big arms wrapping themselves around me, warming me from the inside out and knowing that I’m ok.  Amazing was the taste and smell of certain foods will do, and no, I’m not going to quote the French guy with the little dessert cake here, that quote is as overdone as  a dry roast chicken breast.

SERVES: 6                                             TIME: 1 hour

2 tablespoons EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1/2 lb PANCETTA, finely diced
1 large ONION , diced
2 stalks CELERY with leaves attached, diced
1 large CARROT peeled, chopped in to small cuts
1/2 tsp crumbled dried OREGANO

1 cup canned ITALIAN TOMATOES (in this dish the choice of regular Italian plums or San Marzano is up to you), crushed with your hands

1 cup baby SPINACH LEAVES

2 cups brown LENTILS, rinsed in a colander under cold water
4 cups WATER
1 Tbs. KOSHER SALT
pinch of PEPERONCINO
2 rinds of PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO

In a dutch oven or wide pot, heat the olive oil adding the pancetta.  Cook for about 4 minutes as it takes on some color then add the oregano, the onions, the peperoncino, the celery, and the carrots.  Add a pinch of salt and let this cook for a good 10 minutes until all the vegetables have softened up to an al dente state. Critical when making dishes like this to test the vegetables or they will remain sort of raw or too crisp in the final dish.  Just sayin.  Now add the tomato and let this come to a boil. Then add the water and the lentils, cheese rinds and salt.Bring it all to a boil then down to a medium simmer.  Let this cook until it’s thickened, stirring frequently.  It should take about 45 minutes.  When the soup is done check for seasoning and adjust accordingly.  I prefer a “drier” Lentil soup which is the consistency you see in the picture.  At this time add the spinach.  Let those tender baby leaves just melt into the pot.

When serving, remove the cheese rinds, and in each bowl garnish it with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino and a drizzle of EVOO and a pinch of peperoncino.

What prompted me to blog this dish of mine was a lentil soup with pancetta I had a few nights ago at a Pop up Dinner held by Gabriele Corcos of the TV show EXTRA VIRGIN on Cooking Channel.  I’ll be blogging about that dinner in the future but here is his bowl of lentil soup with Pancetta that we enjoyed:300823_2102887454155_1304531591_31828500_690752139_n

 

It was delicious!  You can’t go wrong with this soup.  Have fun making it and sharing the love.

 

Advertisements

ON THE ROAD: YELLOW LENTIL SOUP IN ABU DHABI, SHORBET ADAS

vacation2014 280  What fun blogging is for me, the telling of a story, the teaching a dish, or sharing an experience, I love it all.  Less than a month ago I was on our family Summer vacation which took my wife and I and our 2 teen daughters  from home here at the Jersey Shore to London, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the Seychelles, and all over South Africa.  Ambitious for sure, but in 17 days we did it all and now I can share some of those food/travel experiences via my blog.  I hope you enjoy the stories as I will be posting them on here along with my regular posts which come from my own kitchen.vacation2014 282vacation2014 289

 

We were in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for a few days and we were smack in the middle of Ramadan which means there were some restrictions on eating.  I inquired as to what a popular Ramadan dish would be when eating was permitted and SHORBET ADAS came up a few times, although Yellow Lentil or just Lentil Soup was what I was told.  Talking about it  on Facebook a friend of mine who hails from the United Arab Emirates told me the lentil soup is SHORBET ADAS.  Now if you are anything like me when you find something like that out in the food world it’s pretty exciting.  At first I thought, it’s 115 degrees F. outside , why on Earth would I order a hot soup, this is Winter food, but…i had to think like a local and say, it’s always hot here so food temperature is really not an issue.  I’m a big fan of all the Middle Eastern flavors with cumin, cloves, onions, herbs, olives..you name it I love all foods made in these cuisines from Israel to Armenia, from Morocco to Egypt, from Turkey to Dubai..the Middle East and it’s bordering cuisines are all joined by similar flavors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s A FOOD OBSESSION enjoying a day on the Persian Gulf in AbuDhabi.  A delicious Lamb Kofte lunch poolside awaited me. That’s going to be another blog post.  Kofte, those grilled meat “kebabs”,”meatballs” are another favorite food of mine.

We loved our days in the UAE and I’m happy to share this soup with you.  LET’S COOK!!

FOR: 4-6                  TIME: ABOUT 1 HOUR OR LESS

1 cup YELLOW LENTILS, RINSED  (you can use orange or red as well)

1 chopped CARROT

1 diced ONION

1 tsp. SALT

2 tbs. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 tsp. CUMIN

1/2 tsp. ground CINNAMON

1/2 tsp. TURMERIC

5 cups WATER or STOCK (VEGETABLE IS BEST, CHICKEN CAN BE USED TOO)

LEMON wedges

In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil and saute’ the onions, and carrot adding a pinch of salt and let them get soft, give it around 8 minutes or so.  Now add the lentils and let them “toast” a bit in the hot oil, season with cumin, cinnamon and the turmeric.  After 5 minutes add the water or stock.  Mix, Bring to a rolling boil then reduce to a simmer and let the lentils cook for about 35 minutes or until they have completely softened.  When soft remove from the heat and using an Immersion blender puree the soup gently (or carefully pour into a blender or processor and do the same, careful, it’s hot!).  Check the soup for seasoning.  Serve hot with LEMON WEDGES and each bowl gets a lemon wedge squeezed into it before serving…NOT AN OPTION..otherwise this is just another Lentil soup.  Clearly, the serving of the lemon with it is what completely got my foodcentric level of excitement up.  It’s part of the recipe, not simply a garnish.  Now, squeeze that lemon and enjoy the soup with some croutons or pita bread.