Kale Lentil Soup

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serving kale lentil soup
The crunch of a few croutons makes a difference.

We have soup about once a week. No, not Campbell’s. We can’t remember the last time we bought a can of Campbell’s. Probably 15+ years ago. We really don’t buy soup at the store at all, as we find it nearly as easy to make soup from scratch as it is to open up a can and heat it. Plus, soup made from scratch tastes so much better, and, we like to think it’s better for you, too.

Now, when we decide to have soup, we always make our own broth. It does take some extra time, but we think it’s worth the extra effort. Plus, the way we make broth utilizes scraps that we’d just be tossing in the trash, anyway, so making broth doesn’t cost a penny. Simply save various vegetable scraps (clean carrot, onion, and garlic peels, tough leaves or stems that needed to be trimmed, anything that you could eat, but might not because of its appearance) in a small tub in the refrigerator. After a week, pop them into a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer 45 minutes. Remove scraps, and strain through a coffee filter. Done.

Kale Lentil Soup

Yield: 4 servings

Kale Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 Tbs minced white onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded kale (about 10 leaves, stems removed)
  • 1/4 cup white wine (optional)
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 dried shiitake mushroom (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • dried basil, for serving
  • croutons, for serving

Abbreviated Instructions

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and fry until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add kale and wine, if using, and cook until kale is wilted and wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse lentils.

Add lentils, broth, and shiitake mushroom, if using. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 20-30 minutes, or until lentils are nearly tender.

If you're using a mushroom, remove it from the soup and cut into pieces, discarding the tough stem. Add salt, marjoram, oregano, red pepper, and black pepper. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender and a few are starting to fall apart.

Stir in vinegar, and simmer for a few minutes more.

Serve, topped with croutons and sprinkled with dried basil.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2016/02/kale-lentil-soup/

Ingredient discussion:

For the lentils, we just use the ordinary brown lentils you find in the store. Nothing fancy, unless you want something different. For the wine, we had a bit left over from the other night, so it went in. If we didn’t have it on hand, we would have skipped the wine. The shiitake is the odd man out, right? What’s it doing in this soup? It’s there to add umami flavor. You could achieve the same thing with Parmesan rinds, or a small piece Kombu ( a type of seaweed), as all are loaded with umami, which acts as a flavor enhancer.

Procedure in detail:

frying onions and garlic
We really like adding a bit of salt and pepper to the frying onions. It smells great, and we think it makes everything taste better, too.

Fry onions. Place the oil in a medium saucepan, about 3 quarts in size, and heat over medium. When hot, add the onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Lately, every time we fry onions, we’ve given them just a sprinkle of salt and pepper. We like to think that it makes them taste better, but it might be because it gives us something to do. Whichever, we think frying onions smell even better with a bit of pepper.

Add garlic. Toss in the garlic and stir. Cook for just about a minute. You don’t want the garlic to burn — it doesn’t taste good — just to start cooking a bit. When you can smell the garlic, you’ve cooked it long enough.

cooking kale
The kale will cook down as the wine evaporates. If you’re not using wine, substitute a bit of broth.

Add kale and wine. Toss in the kale and pour in the wine. At first, the kale will seem like a lot, but, like all greens, it cooks down. Stir from time to time as you cook everything long enough so that all the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

rinsing lentils
Rinse the lentils to remove some of the dust. We just poured water over them, drained a bit, and repeated a few times.

Rinse lentils. While the kale is cooking, quickly give the lentils a rinse. We find that lentils can be a bit dusty, which results in a sediment in the soup. Plus, what else is there to do while the kale is cooking away?

making soup
It’ll take a few minutes for the soup to come back to a simmer, and, after 20 minutes, the mushroom will be tender enough to slice and dice.

Add lentils and broth. Pour in the lentils and the broth. If you’re using a shiitake mushroom, now’s the time to add it. Just toss it right in.

Simmer. Cover the soup and let it simmer and cook until the lentils are mostly tender, about 20 minutes. It’s okay to have a bit of a crunch in the middle of a lentil, and it’ll be okay if your lentils are completely cooked. We just wanted to add the herbs about halfway through the cooking time so they’d have time to add flavor, but not so much time that some of the flavors would boil off.

adding herbs
We add the seasoning partway through cooking so that the flavors can infuse into the broth, but not so early that the flavors are driven off by the simmering.

Season. If you’re using a shiitake, fish it out and let it cool a bit. Dice it into small pieces, discarding the stem (or save the stem for your next batch of broth), and return to the pan. Add the salt, oregano, marjoram, red pepper, and black pepper. Give everything a stir and re-cover the saucepan.

Simmer. Let the soup simmer, stirring from time to time, until the lentils are tender all the way through and a few are starting to fall apart, about 20 to 25 minutes longer.

Season. Add the vinegar, give the soup a stir, and a taste. Adjust the amount of salt and pepper as you see fit.

Serve. We wanted a little texture in our soup, so as we served it, we added a few croutons. We also sprinkled it with a bit of basil, too. Partly for looks, but mainly for flavor (basil flavor cooks off rapidly, so you’re best adding it right near the end).

This soup turned out great. We like that it was full of lentils, making it more like a stew than a soup. We thought the amount of kale was just about perfect; with too much kale, you can end up with a soup that tastes, well, like kale. This did not. We would have liked to add something as a bit of color, and we considered adding a carrot, but, in the end, we went old-school. An easy four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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