Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Restoration in a Bowl

I'm a bit of a soup junkie in the winter. I try to make a big pot of something good at least once a week, and then eat it for lunch until it runs out. An old classic is what we call Kitchen Sink Soup, which entails throwing all of the vegetables we've got lying around in the fridge and pantry (broccoli, green beans, carrots, onion, sweet potatoes, peas, cauliflower, squash, pumpkin are all good) into a pot, covering with vegetable broth and sometimes a can of tomatoes, simmering until everything is tender, then pureeing with an immersion blender and thinning it out with milk if necessary. Doesn't get any easier than that.

My new classic is a mash-up between Giada di Laurentiis' Calamari Stew and Heidi Swanson's Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup. From Giada, I add wine, garlic, and chili flakes to the tomato-based broth, and from Heidi I beef it up with lentils or chickpeas and finely chopped kale. You can serve it plain, or topped with Parmesan cheese or Heidi's saffron yogurt. After a Thanksgiving like I had, a week of eating this for lunch should be a good counterbalance. And who can argue when it's totally delicious and makes you warm and happy?

Note to self: seriously need a better camera if I'm going to keep doing this food blogging thing. Heidi's photos put me to shame!


  • 1 onion, finely sliced or diced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 28 oz. can San Marzano or San Marzano style tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 tbsp. doppio (double concentrated) tomato paste
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups cooked lentils (see note)
  • 1/2 head curly kale, ribs removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and saute the onions until they're soft and golden.
  • Add the garlic; cook it only for a moment so that it doesn't burn.
  • Add the white wine. Let it bubble away for a minute or two to cook off the alcohol, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and stock. Give it a good stir, taste, and season, adding as much chili as you like.
  • Let the broth bubble away for a few minutes, then add the chickpeas or lentils and kale. Give another good stir.
  • Once the chickpeas/lentils are heated through, the soup is ready to serve.
Note: To use lentils instead of chickpeas, combine 2 cups of green, beluga or de Puy lentils (they won't turn to mush) in a pot with 6 cups of water. Simmer until tender, about 20-30 minutes. Drain and add to the soup.

There's so much you can do to play with this soup: add toppings like cooked grains, flavoured yogurt or sour cream, or roasted vegetables; change up the spices (smoked paprika? cumin? oregano?); change the legume (kidney beans? split peas? fava beans?); change the vegetable (chopped green beans? Swiss Chard? peas? broccoli florets?). The one thing I wouldn't change is the type of tomatoes: using San Marzano tomatoes (imported from Italy) or San Marzano-style tomatoes (grown in Canada) makes a huge difference to the flavour. I use Unico brand San Marzano-style, and since we've started cooking with them at home, we've vowed never to stop. They're that good. We buy cans of whole tomatoes and then I either crush them with my hands, or buzz the immersion blender through them. The doppio tomato paste comes in a tube, and we buy it at the local grocery store.