Ultimate Lentil Soup

Forget it, I'm going to keep making and posting soup recipes until this stupid weather breaks or I die.  Whichever comes first. Slow Cooker Revolution is on a roll with what it touts as "Ultimate Lentil Soup."  I don't really like lentil soup.  I don't hate it but it's not my go-to.  Jeeps loves it though, and he's been killing himself shoveling snow so I wanted to make it for him.  It didn't hurt that the recipe called for bacon and mushrooms.

Well, friends, to cut to the chase: this soup is tits.  Unbelievable flavor.  I snuck in a can of black beans toward the end and the country-style texture of beans and lentils rocks.  The mushrooms are killer.  The chard is a treat.  Bacon makes it all sexy.  I stirred some frozen sweet corn into the kids' bowls to cool it off.  And they ate it. 

As my friend Art said, "This is not your mother's lentil soup."

Lentil Soup
Lentil Soup

Ultimate Not-Your-Mother's Lentil Soup

  • 2 onions, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4-5 slices bacon
  • 3-5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 2-3 large portobello mushroom caps, gills removed and cut into 1/2" pieces (the gills scrape right out with a spoon.  You do this to keep the soup from getting muddy)
  • 1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and leaves cut 1/2" thick

Microwave onions, garlic, oil, tomato paste, porcini mushrooms and thyme in bowl, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker.

Stir chicken broth, vegetable broth, bacon, carrots, portobello mushrooms, lentils and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high 5-7 hours or low 9-11 hours, until lentils are tender.

Stir in black beans and chard, cover and cook on high until chard is tender, 20-30 minutes.  Discard bacon and bay leaves.  Serve.

Sicilian Chick Pea Soup

The soup itself is Sicilian, not the chick peas. Most Italian soups feature cannellini beans but in Sicily, chick peas are the favored legume. The recipe comes from the Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook, Volume 2. You can make it in 7 hours in the slow cooker, or in 45 minutes on the stove top. It's not very attractive, but it's yum. It features fennel, garlic, oregano and red pepper. It also calls for anchovies, which I did not use, and escarole, which I did not have.

Stove Top Version

  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 8-oz cans chick peas, dried and rinsed
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 head escarole, chopped coarse, or 1/2 bag of frozen spinach

Heat olive oil in soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add fennel and saute 7-8 minutes. I found the soup very savory and kept looking for a sweet note.   think if you really get the fennel caramelized it will bring that sweetness.

Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes, saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add chick peas and chicken broth. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes. Add spinach or escarole and cook until wilted, another 15 minutes.

Serve with a glug of olive oil and a big dollop of parmesan cheese

Slow Cooker Version

  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
  • 8 oz dried chick peas
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 head escarole, chopped coarse, or 1/2 bag of frozen spinach

Microwave fennel, oil, garlic, oregano, anchovies and papper flakes in bowl, stirring occasionally, until fennel is softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. Stir in chick peas and broth. Cover and cook until chick peas are tender—10 to 11 hours on low or 7 to 8 hours on high.

Stir in escarole or spinach, cover and cook another 15 minutes.

Serve with olive oil and parmesan.

Comfort Food

This week I was filled with grief for a former co-worker who lost his only son. All week Jeeps and I have been upset, questioning the world and its tenuousness, reaffirming each other and the kids, trying to remember what is important. Redman, especially, got kissed and manhandled a lot this week.

In my sad distraction I found myself all too easily sliding back into not eating.  Seeking comfort as well as inspiration, I re-read Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life and she delivered on both fronts. Sobbing through the chapters of her beloved father's death, I arrived at the recipe for "Ed Fretwell Soup." This Italian vegetable creation was delivered to the Wizenbergs by Ed and Barbara Fretwell, during the time of Molly's father's long decline.

It was full of Swiss chard and carrots and plump beans, hearty and reassuring, one of the best soups I’d ever had. When the first batch was gone, we called to ask for more, and Ed delivered it on the next day.

It's one of the best soups I've had, too, and funny thing, because it seems like it's just another minestrone soup recipe. Yet it's not. I don't know what makes it different or so special. But I made it tonight and ate four bowls of it. And about eight oatmeal-chocolate-cherry cookies.

The recipe from Homemade Life involves dried beans and their preparation, which involves overnight soaking. I wanted to make this tonight, right now. I had no dried beans and I tend not to have good luck with them anyway. This involved rearranging the recipe, plus I added a few other tweaks. 

So for the original, click here to go to the January 2005 of Molly's blog Orangette. Scroll down to the post called "On industry, indolence, and Italian vegetable soup". Or, for crying out loud, buy yourself a copy of the book because it is well worth having.

Here is my sped-up tweaked version. The original recipe caveats this makes a lot of soup. If you don't have a large enough pot or enough people, Molly suggests halving the recipe. Which I did here.

Italian Vegetable Soup, based on half of Ed Fretwell Soup

  • 1/2 package of dried porcini mushrooms 
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced thin
  • 6 carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 turnips, diced (not in the original recipe but I'd bought a few because I've been wanting to try them anyway and this seemed a safe way)
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 small bunch Swiss Chard, stalks discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 head of cabbage, coarsely chopped (I didn't have cabbage so I used my entire bunch of Swiss chard, something else I've been wanting to try more of)
  • 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped (that's from the full recipe but I didn't have a 14-oz can so I just used the whole thing.)
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 can cannelini beans, 1 can red kidney beans, 1 can chick peas, all drained and rinsed together. You'll use 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of the mix as you see fit.  Refrigerate the rest for a 3-bean salad.
  • Best-quality olive oil and parmesan cheese for serving.

About 1/2 hour before starting the soup, put the dried mushrooms in a small bowl with 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Let sit to reconstitute. Remove the mushrooms and chop. Strain the mushroom water through a fine sieve or coffee filter and reserve. (I can't stress the straining enough. You don't want grit in your soup.)

In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and turnips. Saute for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the zucchini and broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Add the Swiss chard, tomatoes, sage, and reserved mushroom liquid.

Cover the pot and turn heat low to keep at a simmer for 1 hour. It will seem there is far too little liquid for all the vegetables in the pot but don't worry: the vegetables will give off a good amount of water as they cook.

After an hour, stir in the beans (as much as you like). Taste to see if it needs salt, I found it didn't need a speck. Cover and simmer another 20 minutes. Stir in the parsley.

Serve, and be comforted, with a hearty glug of good olive oil over the top of the bowl and some parmesan cheese sprinkled about. It's not the prettiest soup in the world, but my God, it's good. And if you're going to fret, you should Fretwell.


I served some to Panda and she wrinkled her nose. "It doesn't look very good," I said, "but it tastes really good."

"If I don't like it, is there something else?" she asked in a small voice. I assured her there was leftover spaghetti and meatballs to fall back on. "Well...okay," she said reluctantly, and took a small spoonful. She still looked doubtful but she did take the bowl downstairs to the TV room. 

Puttering around the kitchen, I kept an ear to the basement stairs and sure enough, up floated that sound so dear to a mother's heart: a spoon repeatedly clinking against the bowl. Followed soon by footsteps up the stairs and those wonderful words, "Can I have some more?"

Chicken Soup

  • 4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and sliced
  • 2-3 outer stalks of celery, and entire inner heart, sliced, leaves and all.
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • At least 1, and some of a second box of chicken broth, approx 6 cups total.  Ish.
  • 3/4 cup small pasta such as orzo, stellini, acini de pepe or even alphabets
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • 3-4 egg yolks (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Rub chicken breasts with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour. Let cool. Eat skin if you're that kind of person. Discard skin if you're not that kind of person or give it to me. Take meat off bones and roughly chop or shred. Discard bones. Don't give them to me.

Heat little bit of olive oil in your soup pot. Add all the veggies and saute 5-7 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Add pasta, lower heat and cover. Simmer until vegetables are tender and pasta is cooked. Add reserved chicken. If desired, slip egg yolks into broth while simmering and poach until cooked through.

Add chopped parsley and serve.

A good trick to cool down soup for kids is to put some frozen peas in the bottom of the bowl and then ladle the soup on top. Clever, huh?

Carrot Soup

That autumn in Brooklyn, my grandmother’s sky rained soup...
— Miriam's Kitchen, by Elizabeth Ehrlich

This winter there's not enough soup in the world. Tonight it was carrot soup.

Carrot soup, and its first cousin butternut squash soup, are insanely delicious and stupid simple to make. The formula adapts easily to any other vegetable that would make a pureed soup.


The formula is:

  • 2 potatoes (3 if small)
  • 2 onions (3 if small)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic (more or less according to your taste, I like more, I will use 5)
  • Chicken broth
  • Vegetable of choice. In this case you use 2 bags of frozen baby carrots. I could've sworn I had two in the freezer but I only had one, so I am supplementing with fresh carrots.

Vegetable alternatives:

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks OR 2 packages of pre-peeled, pre-seeded, and pre-cut butternut squash that are readily available at any grocery store.
  • 2 pounds frozen or fresh broccoli
  • 2 pounds parsnips
  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • You get the idea.

I use Madame le Creuset for this soup, but any soup pot will do. Put it on medium-heat and splash some olive oil and a pat of butter in the bottom.

Peel and quarter the onions and toss them in, saute 4 minutes until they soften and start to come apart.

Peel and cut the potatoes into rough 2-inch chunks, toss them in, stir.

Competently smash the garlic cloves under the flat blade of your knife, peel the skins away and toss the cloves into the pot whole. (Hmm... This sounds vaguely familiar. You might want to have a handsome man, suffused with hunger and weariness, watching you at this point to get the full effect.)

Add the frozen carrots (and in this case, the supplemental fresh ones, peeled and chunked). Stir another few minutes and then add chicken broth to barely cover, I estimate about half of a 32-oz box. Cover Madame, turn the heat to low, and go rinse the Feria out of your hair.

(What, I didn't mention I was coloring my hair tonight? My bad. It was long overdue, and getting back to my roots in a way that wasn't pretty at all.)

So the goal here is soft mushiness which will take about 20 minutes at a lower simmer. If you can break the carrots with the edge of a wooden spoon, you're done. Turn off the heat and carefully dump veggies and broth into a bowl. 

In batches, puree them in the blender or food processor and scrape back into Madame. My seester gave me a gorgeous Viking immersion blender for Christmas and if this were a more country-style soup I would have used it, but I like this soup ultra-smooth and so the Cuisinart is really the way to go.

Once back in the pot, add more chicken broth until it is the consistency you want. You could do only broth or add some buttermilk or regular milk or even cream if you are so inclined. I then like to sprinkle a nice amount of paprika which boosts the flavor and intensifies the orange color. When serving, I like to put out sour cream or plain yogurt to dollop on top, and then chopped chives or dill to sprinkle. Sometimes I like to sprinkle caraway seeds on mine.

This soup freezes beautifully for another day.  You can make it in the morning, chill, and reheat it later.  You can push it to the back burner and forget it while you make something yummy to go on the side.  Like...um...oh, I don't know, how about BROCCOLI BITES!?!

I know!!!  I found these on Stacey Snacks and lost my mind.  They are simple to make and totally delicious on the side of a pureed vegetable soup.  So here is the money shot: