Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lentil Minestrone

Another lazy Sunday, another big batch of soup. This time I've made a hearty Lentil Minestrone out of Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. This one is great to make on a day when you have a little extra time because - turns out - it tastes better a few hours after making. Also, it freezes well for future meals or lunches.

Now there's two things about this soup that caught my eye- and that's the addition of soy sauce and Parmesan cheese. Both of these ingredients are terrific flavour enhancers, especially for soup, because they are a source of natural MSG or simply glutamate.

Glutamate is an amino acid found in all foods containing protein such as cheese, milk, mushrooms, meat, fish, and many vegetables. Glutamate is also produced by the human body and is vital for metabolism and brain function.

Glutamate's unpopular cousin, monosodium glutamate is also known as MSG. This is the sodium salt of glutamate. When MSG is added to foods, it provides a similar flavoring as the glutamate that occurs naturally in food. MSG is comprised of nothing more than water, sodium and glutamate.

Lentil Minestrone (Serves 6)
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison
Add the cooked pasta and greens just before serving so that they retain their color and texture. And, don't forget the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra virgin to finish
2 cups onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 cup diced celery or celery root
1 cup French green lentils, rinsed
Aromatics: 2 bay leaves, 8 parsley branches, 6 thyme sprigs
9 cups water or vegetable stock (I prefer Pacific Organic brand)
Mushroom soy sauce to taste (or regular soy sauce if that's what you have on hand)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch greens—mustard, broccoli rabe, chard, or spinach
2 cups cooked small pasta—shells, orecchiette, or other favorite shape
Thin shavings of Parmesan

Heat the oil in a wide soup pot with the onion. Saute over high heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, parsley, celery, garlic, vegetables, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook 3 minutes more.

Add the lentils, aromatics, and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Taste for salt and season with pepper. If it needs more depth, add mushroom soy sauce to taste, starting with 1 tablespoon. (The soup may seem bland at this point, but the flavors will come together when the soup is finished.) Remove the aromatics.

Boil the greens in salted water until they're tender and bright green, then chop them coarsely.

Just before serving, add the greens and the pasta to the soup and heat through. Serve with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into each bowl, a generous grind of pepper, and the Parmesan.

MORE SOUP RECIPES-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Curried Carrot, Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup
This is a smooth, pureed soup with a depth of flavours and a rich golden colour.

Ginger Peanut Soup
A delicious, vegetarian soup that combines broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes with the flavours with a little heat of ginger and cayenne.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup
A woodsy, mushroom soup with exceptional flavour because of the generous additions of paprika, dill and sour cream.

Southern Corn Chowder
I have always loved corn chowder. Warm, creamy and hearty and homey. This version is a flavourful, southern-style corn chowder with a touch of southern spice.


~JoRdAn NiiCoLe~ said...

Hey just wondering if there is anyway that I can follow your blog? I am going to college next year to get my culinary degree and your blog really interests me.

Melody Wey said...

Sure! Would something such as adding an RSS feed work? Stay tuned as I look into it over the next few days. Thanks for the comment and good luck in culinary school- intense but tons of fun.