February 10, 2012

Lentil Soup with Chorizo Croutons

This lentil soup, like the chicken stew I wrote about a few days ago, goes in the "hearty and healthy" category.

French green lentils
Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse. They're high in fiber, protein, iron and folate. And they're low in calories, and practically fat-free. They help lower cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels steady. 

That's all well and good. But it would be meaningless (to me, at least), if they weren't satisfying. The good news is, they are.

Take this soup, for example. It has no butter or cream. But it's still rich and filling. The lentils start out hard and unyielding. But as they cook, they become tender and absorb the flavors of the vegetables and broth that they're simmering in. Give them a quick puree and you've got a thick, flavorful soup that satisfies the mouth and the belly.

And the chorizo croutons. These are optional, but recommended. What's neat about the chorizo in this recipe is that it's a garnish, rather than a main ingredient. Just place a few chorizo slices on the soup and drizzle with a bit of chorizo oil. The spicy, fragrant oil flavors the entire bowl, without undoing the virtuousness of the dish.

To begin, soak lentils in cold water.

Combine drained lentils in a pot with carrot, onion, bay leaf, thyme and stock.

Simmer, covered, until lentils are tender.

Puree soup. I did this with an immersion blender but you can also do this in a regular blender.

Fry chorizo slices until lightly browned on both sides.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with a few chorizo slices and a drizzle of chorizo oil.

Lentil Soup with Chorizo Croutons

Recipe from French Food at Home

1 cup French green lentils
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, sliced
bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig
4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, for squirting if you like
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 small chorizo sausage, thinly sliced

1.      Soak the lentils in cold water for 2 hours. Drain the lentils, and put them in a pot with the carrotonion, bay leaf, thyme sprig, and stock. Cover the pot and simmer until very tender, about 45 minutes.
2.      Discard the herbs, and let the lentils cool somewhat, then puree in a blender along with the vegetables, working in 2 batches to avoid an explosive mess.
Cook's Note: Remember that if you put something too hot into a blender you may crack it.
3.      For a very smooth soup, strain it, although it's not necessary. Add salt and pepper, to taste, along with a squeeze of lemon if you like. Gently reheat the soup.
4.      Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan, and sauté the chorizo slices until they curl, about 30 seconds. Turn and fry another 15 seconds.
5.      Serve the soup with the chorizo rounds on top and with some of the now bright-orange cooking oil spooned around.

Serves 4 to 6

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