Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tangy Red Lentil Soup With Niçoise Olives

Once a month, when I know I'm going to be home for a couple of hours, I make a big batch of rich chicken stock, using the Edna Lewis method. Last week there was an article in the NYT about how making stock is (supposedly) too much work, results in too many pots to wash and is altogether not worth the effort. Along with the article they listed a number of soup recipes in which the bones cook right along with the soup, instead of requiring the separate step of making stock first and then soup later.
This was one of those recipes, and I'm here to tell you, people: TAKE THE TIME TO MAKE A BIG BATCH OF STOCK ONCE A MONTH WHILE YOU'RE WATCHING A VIDEO OR CONDITIONING YOUR HAIR. There is no substitute in terms of depth of flavor. I had to triple the amount of tomato paste called for and add a whole mess of salt to this recipe just to give it flavor. Other than that, it was pretty good. A nice occasional change from our Turkish red lentil standard. The olive garnish is very cute.

1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
1 large carrot, unpeeled, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
1 small can tomato paste
1 pound red lentils, rinsed
1 pound chicken backs
4 thyme sprigs
2 lemons, halved
1/4 cup whole niçoise olives.
Pimenton, for garnish
1. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine celery, carrot, onion, garlic, olive oil and salt. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute. Add lentils, chicken backs, 8 cups water and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until lentils have broken down, about 30 minutes.

2. Discard thyme sprigs. Remove chicken backs, remove meat from bones, chop meat and return meat to soup. Using an immersion blender, partially purée soup. Taste and add salt if needed. Ladle soup into bowls, squeeze in lemon juice and serve topped with olives.

Yield: 8 servings.

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