March 5, 2012

Charlotte's soup of the day: Chipotle-Spiced Lentil Apple

Ok, perhaps it's a bit misleading calling it "soup of the day". That implies that other days there will be a different soup. Perhaps "soup of today" is more like it. Or "soup, made today". Anyway, Charlotte made soup today.

My daughter can cook more than respectably well. But, like many, she'll look in her pantry and fridge and despite there being what I would see as the ideal bones for a hearty meal of soup, she sees nothing except what's not there, or an hour of work ahead of her. Can't blame her; her mind's on other things–as it should be as a 20year-old student with a part time job– just as is the case for most people who have never made a living cooking. Meanwhile I see an onion, a carrot, another veg (or, in this case, fruit) dried beans and grains and a few seasonings and the lightbulb switches on.

So today, I coached her. I'd already cooked some lentils (with a slice of onion and a couple of bay leaves- this took about 20 mins) so that she would have this protein at the ready for a salad or soup. I asked her to think first about the ingredients she is likely to ALWAYS keep in her fridge.  Onions, carrots, garlic, apples. Chipotle is also a staple. I've been encouraging her to have a few sweet potatoes available so that she can roast one off in her toaster oven while she gets ready for school. This, with some sauteed or steamed greens, or perhaps some seasoned black beans and a sprinkling of cheese make a quick meal. As a bonus, today she also had some pancetta, but it's not a stretch to think there will at least be some bacon.

Then, I left the kitchen. She chopped and sautéed and within 15 minutes, I  could hear bubbling liquid and the delicious smell of sweet apple and smokey chipotle wafted into the living room. My nose led me back into the kitchen. We tasted it together. Hmm... a little on the spicy side. I reminded her to, next time, start slow with the chipotle. But mistakes can lead to better things: I reached into the fridge and pulled out some leftover mashed sweet potato. With a big spoon she added a large dollop and stirred it in. It give the soup a more creamy consistency, and the lumps added a nice textural sweetness.

It was the best soup I have tasted in a long long time, and I'm happy to say there is still more in the pot. Writing this out has made me hungry for more.

** remember, when making soup, don't get hung up on the size of the carrot, onion, apple, or whatever. Like more bacon, put in more, vegetarian, leave it out! Soup is freeform kitchen fun!

Charlotte's soup of the day: Chipotle-Spiced Lentil Apple

1 cup dry brown lentils, cooked in 4 cups of water with a bay leaf and a thick slice of onion
1 tbsp mild flavored oil
1 small onion, chopped (fine, or rough, whatever your pleasure)
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (or just smashed and thrown in)
1 crisp, sweet-tart apple, diced (in this case, she had Fuji on hand)
1 carrot, small dice
1 oz sliced pancetta or a few slices of bacon 
1/4 c apple cider, or substitute water or stock
1 tbsp chipotle sauce (approx ), or 1 chipotle in adobo, seeds removed  (in this case, used La Costeña brand chipotle salsa–it's in a tin–  essentially a chipotle puree). 
(if you don't like spicy, start with less and taste as you go)
 3 cups chicken or a rich vegetable stock, or failing availability of either, water will do
1 sweet potato, roasted and mashed (or, you can puree in a food processor)
salt to taste

In a saucepan, heat the oil over med heat. Begin by sautéing the onion,(if you are using thick sliced pancetta, add it now. If thin-sliced, add with the other veg) When onion's translucent, add the chopped carrot, garlic and apple. Continue to sauté, and help it along by adding the cider or water to soften the veg. Once the carrot has lost its crunch, add the cooked lentils and stock, and allow this to come to a simmer. THen add the chipotle-- again, if you have reservations about spice, start small and add more gradually.
Stir in some mashed sweet potato. Simmer a little more, then salt to taste.

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