I love and adore lentil soup.  (Hint:  Don’t eat it three days running.)
When I say this to my sister, she says,

“OH NO!  I HATE LENTIL SOUP.  Though I once loved it.”

Now how could anyone hate lentil soup?  (Unless they’ve never eaten it.  I think, in my sister’s case, she ate it three days running.  That’s how I know.)

I don’t think I ever ate lentil soup as a child.  (I could be wrong.)   My mom, from the south, more than likely made bean soup or pinto bean soup.  I can’t remember where I first ate lentil soup.  We lived in Europe during the late ’80’s…maybe then.  But, I’m guessing it might have been in a restaurant.  Which one?  Your guess is as good as mine.  No matter.  The fact is, I make incredible lentil soup. 

Ok, most ANYONE makes incredible lentil soup.  And, if you don’t?  I’m here to teach you how. 

The beauty of lentil soup is thus:  Although it appears like a forever-and-a-day-cooked legume soup, lentil is pretty fast.  And if you pour boiling water over the lentils as you begin the soup, it’s even faster.  (A hint:  split pea is fast, too.  It’s a camping soup, even.)  So if you want food to look like (or taste like) you spent all day long at it, go to the mall til 4.  Rush home, start the soup, and look like a heroine at dinner.  No one needs to know you were trying on high-heeled red leather boots at 3:55pm. 

And what about the Croque, Monsieur?  I’ll tell you how to do that in a flash as well.  Think grilled ham and cheese and you’re almost done.   Really, it’s Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame (if you put a fried egg on top).. and this my take on these sandwiches; they’re very tasty.  There are other more complicated croque monsieurs and madames; you can look them up.  I like the very easy monsieur here.

It so feels like fall here…  And today the mountains are covered in Moses-like clouds.  While the heat is not on yet, it may be tomorrow.

below:  Dave enjoying some soup on the deck on October 21, 2010

Oh, and thank God for The Church at Woodmoor and for Dr. Tom’s cat Olive returning home.  Take care of my nephew John.  Amen.  There.  Thanks to all for all the incredible birthday wishes.    Now on to the soup!

Pancetta Lentil Soup
 10-12 servings

1# green or brown lentils (I like green)
3-4 c boiling water
1-2 oz pancetta (Italian bacon) diced  (or 3 pieces American bacon, diced)*
6 stalks celery, diced (You can use food processor for all of veggies-in batches-for speed.)
3 onions, diced
2 shallots or 1 leed (white part) diced
4oz mushrooms, chopped
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1t fresh thyme or 1/2 t dried thyme
3 qt chicken broth (low-sodium)
1 c white wine (or water)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
1 c  chopped new potatoes
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow (summer) squash, chopped
Kosher salt; freshly ground black pepper
Droplets of Tabasco (or other) hot sauce
1/2 c Parmesan, grated

Bring to a boil 3-4 cups of water and pour over lentils in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a 10-12 qt. stock pot, saute chopped pancetta  over medium heat until golden.  Add celery, onions, shallots or leeks and mushrooms.  Stir in herbs. Saute until softened, about 10-12 minutes.  Stir often.

Add broth and wine or water and bring to a boil.  Add lentils, garlic, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and squashes.   Season with 2t salt and 1/2 t pepper and several drops of Tabasco.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to high simmer.  Let cook until vegetables and lentils are tender–about an hour.  (Less at sea level.)  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve in large bowls and pass Parmesan at the table.

above:  after adding lentils to sauteed veg
below:  after adding broth and wine, before the simmer ’til it’s done

*For another lentil soup, use chopped ham here or even sliced kielbasa.  I have often used bulk breakfast sausage for a very hearty soup.  If you’d like a veggie or vegan soup, simply saute the veggies in olive oil only, use vegetable broth, and skip the Parmesan cheese.

Lovely with Croque Monsieur sandwiches.

 Alyce’s Quick Croque Monsieur  or Ham and Cheese Grilled French Toast
serves 4
2T each, butter and olive oil

8 slices Italian bread
2T Dijon-style mustard
2 eggs
1T water
Salt and pepper
1/2# Black Forest ham (or your favorite ham)
1/4# Sliced Swiss Cheese (I like Emmanthaler)

Heat oven to 250 degrees F and place a cookie sheet in oven.

In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium heat.

Meantime, beat eggs and water in  a large, shallow  bowl (a pasta bowl works well).  Season with a good-sized pinch of salt and pepper.  Beat again.

Spread each piece of bread lightly with Dijon mustard.  With the mustard-covered sides facing inward, layer four slices of bread with ham and top with cheese, dividing the meat and cheese equally amongst the four slices.  Top each with another slice of bread and dip in the beaten egg-water mixture.  Turn sandwich over and wet the other side well with the egg-water mixture.

Gently place each sandwich in the heated pan.  Cook until the first side is golden brown, 3-4 minutes.  Turn over and cook the other side of both sandwiches until that side is brown. Remove to  cookie sheet in  oven to keep warm and repeat with other two sandwiches.

Serve with hot lentil soup.

                                              below:  apples and peanut butter-fall dessert

Cold weather means nothing when there’s food like this.  Lovely with an almost-cold glass of Chardonnay.

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

Alas, alack.  Skippy has been gone a couple of weeks now.  Back “home.”  Anecdotal evidence appears to indicate he misses us not…  Oh well.

Above:   Big-Mouth Gab
Below:  Grandma Melinda and Katie with baby-to-be due in November

Meantime, I’ve promised my physical therapist I’ll blog about my fitness.  So, here are a few sentences until later:  I’ve been in physical therapy for months regaining my upper-body strength, sapped by years of bad conducting practices, tendonitis, and pinched nerves.  Over the last two months, I’ve begun lifting weights and have addeed other exercises.  This month, I’ve graduated to a “Y” membership, where I’ve begun to think of myself as gymrat.  Kind of.   Dave is going, too…when he’s home.  While I wouldn’t exactly call myself a new woman, I’m certainly not the same being as before.  As I figure out how to talk about it, I’ll say more.  I will say that if you spend a half an hour on the treadmill, watching how many calories you burn go up ever so slowly, you’re less apt to over-indulge at lunch.