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December 17, 2008 12:45 PM

Lentil soup: I did it myyyyyyy way.

Posted by Nancy Leson

I'm curious to see what you folks think about And I hope by now you've all checked out the just-launched site -- billed as "the cooking encyclopedia everyone can edit!" Here's what I have to say about the lentil soup recipe I found on Foodista this morning and prepared for lunch -- edited to suit my taste (isn't that the whole idea?):

The recipe was absurdly simple: take the ingredients listed (1 pound dried lentils; 8 cups cold water; 1 16-ounce can tomatoes, chopped; 5 slices bacon, cut up; 1 medium onion, chopped; 2 medium carrots, chopped; 2 teaspoons parsley; 2 teaspoons wine vinegar; 1 garlic clove, minced; 2 teaspoons salt; 1 teaspoons dried oregano; 1/4-teaspoon pepper; 1 large bay leaf), combine in a Dutch oven, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Getting down to work, I began to edit as I prepped -- which came naturally to me. But it might not have come naturally to someone less comfortable in the kitchen. As noted in the "related content" section of the lentil entry (which is where I found the soup recipe), you're welcome to use something other than the brown lentils that appeared in the accompanying photo. My kitchen's stocked with all kinds of lentils, including bags of the Palouse's finest, fancy belugas (black), French lentilles du Puy (green) and the ones I chose today: small, corral-colored daal, found in the bulk-foods aisle of many local supermarkets, a staple in Indian cooking:

I rinsed and picked over the lentils (which the recipe failed to mention I should do), then "cut up" the bacon, as directed (I'd have suggested it be "diced"). Before combining all the ingredients at once, I envisioned what that diced bacon would look like after it had been simmered with all the other ingredients for 45 minutes. My conclusion? "Uh-oh. Jack Sprat and his son are going to taste this soup and kvetch, `Ewww. What's this fatty stuff?'" So, I heated my Dutch oven and browned the diced bacon first before adding the other ingredients. I didn't bother to brown the onion in the bacon fat, which would have given the soup additional depth of flavor, nor did I add any cumin (which I'd have sauteed for a few seconds along with the onion and the bacon in the rendered fat): Next time!

And though I had umpteen different kinds of vinegar on hand (balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, malt vinegar, raspberry vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, Chinese black vinegar and good-old Heinz white vinegar), I didn't have any "wine vinegar." So I did what made the most sense to me: I hit the soup up with some Busha Browne's Spicy & Hot Pepper Sherry, my condiment-of-choice for just about every soup or stew imaginable. And then I cooked it, lid on, until it tasted right to me. Which is to say, for an hour and 15 minutes, rather than the suggested 45.

So, how was it? Delicious, and perfect for a nasty-cold day like this one:

Lentil Soup on Foodista

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Listen to Nancy at 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. during Morning Edition, at 4:40 p.m. during All Things Considered and again the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. during Weekend Edition on KPLU 88.5.

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