Lentil Soup for a Blustery Day

Despite its self-proclaimed “Day of Rest”, I was exhausted from the weekend. The morning was dark until way past 8am. I was sleepy. I knew that exercising would help clear my mind but I was too tired to exercise. I stared out the window as the torrential rain rammed against the side of our house. The deluge of water that cascaded down our window reminded me that the gutter that was broken the last time it rained was, in fact, still broken. I thought of my daughter who had bounded out the door not but 15 minutes ago, late for the bus and without a jacket. My gaze fell onto the lawn. The lawn that two days ago had but nary a leaf on it thanks to yours truly. Sigh. Now, it was covered again with autumn’s version of snow.

“Curses!” I suddenly called out to no one in particular. I realized that in my grogginess of the prior evening, I had failed to set out the yard debris bin. “Ah…two weeks til I can try again. Two more weeks of leaves and a yard bin that is already full to the brim….gads.”

All I really wanted to do was crawl back in bed. And, sleep. Me, the cat and the sound of rain. But, the thought of me, luxuriously napping away while my sweetie was out “hunting and gathering” was just too guilt ridden. So, I shuffled into my office, opened up my laptop and willed myself to be productive. I sifted through emails and then, somehow found myself immersed in a two-hour one-hour project of transferring all of my favorite blogs and websites over to delicious. I can tell that you are secretly chuckling at me. Chuckling because you too know what it means to wile away the time out in cyberspace. When the joy of tagging websites eventually began to wane, I did what any woman in my state of mind would do…I went shopping. For, food.

I guided my car down the leaf-covered roads. With no children, the car was quiet. Only the sound of tires on wet pavement. Walking through the parking lot of my favorite grocery store, a seagull, so far from the sea, squawked at me from atop a streetlight. Trying to beat the next shower, I hurried inside and saddled right up to the counter to order myself a Stumptown “non-fat latte with a splash of vanilla, please.” And then, I slowly wound myself in and out of aisles. Simply taking the time to take it all in.

Back in front of my kitchen sink, I listened to my rainy day favorite, while I chopped up onions, leeks, carrots and celery. Children arrived home from school. Plopped down with books. Worked on homework. Ran outside and returned, when dinner was called, with bright red cheeks and a freshness about them.

With a bowl of soup in front of us and bread and apples within reach, we all sat around the table. We talked about nothing in particular but we talked. We laughed. We ate. And, I thought, if I have done one thing today…I have fed my family. And, maybe, for today, that’s enough.

Lentil Soup for a Blustery Day
(Adapted from Ina Garten’s Lentil Sausage Soup)

¾ lb or 1½ c of French green lentils such as du Puy
1/8 c olive oil
2 large, yellow onions, diced (approx 4 c)
2 leeks, chopped, white and light green parts only
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp black pepper
1 tbls fresh thyme leaves, minced OR 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cumin
2 c diced celery
2 c diced carrots
3 quarts chicken broth
¼ c tomato paste OR a 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 pound kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise and then, sliced 1/3 inch thick
2 tbls dry red wine or red wine vinegar, optional
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving.

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water (or water from your “insta-hot”) and allow them to sit for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Please note that you must use the french green lentils when you are making this soup. The regular ole brown ones just turn to mush and well, mush, especially when it’s brown in color, is just not that appetizing.

In a LARGE stock-pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil, then, sauté your onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and translucent. As I am always pressed for time, I chop my onions, and then add them to the pot. Then, the next vegetable and so on rather than stockpiling and adding them all to the pot at once. Even if each vegetable wasn’t sautéed for exactly 20 minutes, it doesn’t seem to affect the final product.

Add the carrots and celery and sauté for another 10 minutes or so. Then, add the chicken stock, tomato paste (or tomatoes) and drained lentils, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes or until the lentils are cooked through and tender. (Or you can do what I did this night and find that fine line between simmer and boil, which seems to cook the lentils in about 30 minutes.) Add the kielbasa and red wine and simmer until the kielbasa is hot about 5 more minutes. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with grated Parmesan and enjoy.

Yield: About 8 to 10 servings

Now, before you write this recipe off as way too much chopping, please note that this makes a huge batch. And, what’s more, this soup makes a great lunch for you or your little buddies the next day. Nothing more comforting than opening up a thermos of scrumptious lentil soup at school or work…especially on a blustery, “indoor recess” kind of day.

PS: For you vegetarians out there, I’ve also made this soup without the kielbasa. Exchanged vegetable broth for chicken broth and added a 28 oz can of drained, fire roasted tomatoes instead of tomato paste. Delicious.

All original text and photos copyright: Carrie Minns 2009


  1. Julie Whitcraft says:

    Beautifully written – I love Lentil soup and cannot wait to try this recipe. I too spent an hour raking on Sunday only to find the lawn covered again on Monday. I questioned why I was expending the effort as I knew that would happen but chalked it up to a good upper body work out!

  2. Maybe we can have a leaf raking party…the more the merrier kind of thing. And, I'm with ya on the upper body work out!

  3. Angie Muresan says:

    Sometimes feeding the family is enough. Now, I'm off to the market to get what I need to make this delicious soup!

  4. Mrs. Ditter says:

    Ah, Carrie…another delicious blog entry, in every way! Keep it up. You're feeding your family while you feed our souls (and occasionally our families, too!).