The last few weeks and months have been hard on us all, right? It's been a grueling, punishing, and yes, heart-breaking election that's left us just a bit worn out by politics and pundits and well, I for one am ready to put it all behind me (perhaps something easier said than done).
And when it comes to healing from a brutal event such as this has been, cooking and eating just the right things can be cathartic and soothing. Of course, copious amounts of drinking doesn't hurt either. We might start with the drinking (quite advisable), and when ready, find what it is that your mind and body are needing. It became evident to me very quickly that I needed soup. Not only did I need to eat soup (something hearty and warming and healthy), but just as urgently, I needed to make soup. And I needed to make lentil soup. It was amazing to me how quickly I knew this was what I needed. Must have lentil soup. Now.
I've been making this soup since sometime in the 1970's, so it's like an old friend who's familiar and comforting and there when I need it. And yes, I've posted my lentil soup before, but it was years ago, and this soup is so incredibly perfect, and one of those meals that just feels good for the soul, that it totally deserves a second post.
And I knew this would happen...chopping the veggies and cooking the lentils and barley and the bulghur helped to refocus my energies; a rather welcome prescription for burnout. Unfortunately, no soup can change the tide of politics, but eating it with someone you love can bring momentary joy and comfort. Here's the recipe...
This makes a lovely, warming, healthy bowl of soup deliciousness. Use whatever kind of broth you have on hand, but it's a great vehicle for leftover holiday turkey broth. As for the celery, I like to use the heart of the celery and chop the celery leaves too. They add great flavor to the soup. The bulghur wheat is optional, but again, it adds a depth of flavor and some thickening to the broth. If you would like, you can reduce the amount of lentils and increase the barley and/or add chopped zucchini to the soup for even more flavor and nutrition.
1 1/4 cups lentils
½ cup medium bulgur wheat
1/2 c barley
6 cups water
2 T butter
4-6 cups chicken or turkey or vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 t chopped fresh mint (optional)
3 carrots, shredded
3 stalks celery, chopped (I like to use the heart of the celery with the leaves)
3 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
Grated Parmesan for serving
Place the lentils, barley and bulgur wheat in a large saucepan. Cover with water by about 2 inches or so (about 6 cups, depending on the size of your pan). Add 2 teaspoons of salt, bring to a boil and cook for about a half hour.
Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, saute the onion, carrots, and celery in the butter and a little olive oil until soft. Add the cooked lentil mixture and cooking broth, along with the chopped parsley, another teaspoon of salt, a little more pepper if you like, and enough of the chicken broth to cover by about an inch. Stir well and simmer 1-2 hours, adding more chicken stock if it gets too thick. Taste for salt and pepper.
To serve, drizzle each bowl of soup with a little olive oil and then sprinkle with grated parmesan.