lentil soup with sausage, potato and greens

There was a bowl filled with 10 cups of homemade chicken broth in my fridge that was fast approaching the 1-week mark. I'm not 100% positive about how long various things stay "fresh" in the fridge, and I suspect it is oftentimes longer than the standard safety recommendations*, but in general I operate under the 1-week policy. Under a week? Eat it. Over a week? Toss it. It's that hazy 6-7 day area where I know my logic is a bit spurious. It's okay to eat at 11pm on Day 6, but by 9am on Day 7 it has got to go. 

*On this topic, I hope Sophie shares a blog about her experiences visiting extended family in Poland and their unique food-storage methods!

Talking about food spoiling is really no way to introduce a recipe. But if we're being real, I adapted this recipe for Lentil Soup from the Joy of Cooking because the timer on my chicken broth was ticking. And when I say "adapt" I mean it...the original recipe called for water not chicken stock! A real oversight, I must admit, but once I realized it, I was already too far into my dinner preparations to back down.

By the way, the soup turned out delicious. 

But my oversight got me thinking: Why did the original recipe request water and not stock? It seems stock would always mean an improvement in flavor (depth, richness, etc.). Now, I consider the Joy of Cooking one the cookbook greats. A real classic. One of the things I love about JofC is how it gives a bit of information about the origin of the recipes, their history, variations, why they developed a certain way, what results certain methods or techniques will deliver, etc. So in pondering the water/stock question, I turned back the pages of the cookbook to the introduction for the soup section, where I found the following: 

"IS STOCK NECESSARY? 

It depends on the soup. ... Some soups need stock for taste and body ... But when the main ingredients of a soup are full of character, you may not want to mask their flavors by adding stock ... Likewise, most soups based on beans and legumes...do not require stock, their main ingredients being rich and earthy."

I've made beans with water, and beans with stock, but I've never really compared the two at the same time in order to note a real difference. I have always assumed my beans made with stock were more flavorful, but now I'm not so sure. I see a test-kitchen project emerging! 

Before I get around to testing this stock/water question for myself, I'm going to share this recipe for a lentil soup. I prepared it with chicken stock, because I had some to use up, and it was delicious. But feel free to substitute water, per the original recipe, and let me know your results in the comments below. Also, the JofC offers two variations on this recipe: one with sausage and potato, and the other with greens. I decided to combine all the variations into one. 

Beneath the Crust: Lentil Soup with Sausage, Potato and Greens

Lentil Soup with Sausage, Potato and Greens

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 medium celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups chicken stock (or water)
  • 2 cups lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 14.5 ounces crushed tomatoes, drained
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme 
  • 1.5 pounds Italian sausage links
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1.5 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8-10 oz greens (spinach, kale), washed, dried and trimmed 

Directions:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot (or Dutch Oven) set over medium heat. Place the sausage links in the pot and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.  
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add another tablespoon of oil if needed. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5-10 minutes. 
  3. Pour the stock (or water) into the pot. Add lentils, tomatoes, thyme, and sausage links. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. 
  4. Remove sausage links from the pot. Add in the diced potato and an additional 1/2 cup of water. Simmer for another 10 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. 
  5. Meanwhile, slice the sausage links into rounds. Stir sliced sausage back into the pot. 
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in all of the greens just before serving, or keep the greens on the side and allow each person to add as much as they want into their own bowl. 

Serves 6-8. 

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking's Lentil Soup.