Soup it up

Well, there you have it- winter’s finally here, and we’re fresh into the new year.

With 2012 firmly in hand, I begrudgingly begin to act on those resolutions we all make: Lose weight, work out more, try not to eat a meat sandwich at Dickson’s every day, etc…

Initially I’m saddened by the self-imposed culinary guidelines that I’ve decided to adopt, but then I look at it another way: a challenge.

Eating well, nay, eating healthily, doesn’t necessarily doom you to the world of sadly scoffing down 32 egg whites every morning. Throwing out those egg yolks should be a crime.  We’ve all heard the saying that Fat=flavor.  While the foie gras, pork belly, and duck fat-loving French part of me agrees, flavor isn’t in a monogamous relationship with taste.

To put it eloquently,  there are a buttload of healthy, fresh things to eat in this world, and a ton of ways to prepare them.  I refuse to go the way of surrendering the culinary experience for the sake of a diet.

Might that be why healthy eating fails? Because you think you have to eat bland, ugly, processed food all the time? Have fun with that.

The above picture is my rebuttal.  It’s one of my favorite recipes. It’s healthy, filling, and hell, it’s even vegan (initially).

The recipe is a variation on the “Lively up yourself Lentil soup” from 101 cookbooks.  Here it is:

2 cups black beluga lentils (or green French lentils), picked over and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
3 cups of a big leafy green (chard, kale, etc), rinsed well, deveined, finely chopped

Saffron Yogurt
a pinch of saffron (30-40 threads)
1 tablespoon boiling water
two pinches of salt
1/2 cup 2% Greek Yogurt

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add the lentils, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

While the lentils are cooking, make the saffron yogurt by combining the saffron threads and boiling water in a tiny cup. Let the saffron steep for a few minutes. Now stir the saffron along with the liquid into the yogurt. Mix in the salt and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat, then add the onion and salt and saute until tender, a couple minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, lentils, and water and continue cooking for a few more minutes, letting the soup come back up to a simmer. Stir in the chopped greens, and wait another minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be. Ladle into bowls, and serve with a dollop of the saffron yogurt.

Serves 6 to 8.


Let’s talk about variations.  Most of the time I leave out the greek yogurt, although it’s a delicious addition.  I’ll typically squeeze some lemon juice in there to taste, as well as smoked spanish paprika and cumin.

While the soup itself is filling in its own right thanks to the lentils, I like to add a protein component in order to mix things up.  This recipe makes a ton of soup, and can feed you through most of the work week. I have two favorite additions:

A sunny-side up egg:


And Spicy Seared Shrimp, lifted from Mark Bittman’s fantastic Shrimp Salad Recipe:

Give the soup a try. put your own touch on it.  If you see the recipe as more of a guide then you have more room for interpretation.  Make it your own and don’t be afraid to fuck it up (after all, it’s just vegetables and water).  Sometimes it’ll be “meh,” and sometimes it’ll be a revelation.  The great batches make it worth it, and it allows you to grow as a cook.

Hopefully this post inspires you to take on the same challenge of healthier eating without the depressing lack of flavor.  And before you go ahead and assume that I’ve sworn off my favorite fatty animal products, remember what literature’s favorite narcissist Oscar Wilde once said:

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

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