While we’re on tenterhooks to hear about Robin’s preschool (they say that “In early April we will notify all interested families with either an Admission Invitation or a notice that they have been placed on our waitlist”), spring has arrived in the Bay Area—but the swiss chard is still coming. Luckily I’ve discovered a new chard recipe to put into the rotation. This swiss chard and lentil soup is super-healthful, easy to make, and comes together quickly (although you do need to soak the lentils for a few hours beforehand).
Credit for this recipe goes to The Silver Spoon Cookbook, which was a wedding present to us from my sisters-in-law. I use it all the time!
Right, so, first, a few hours before dinnertime, put 2/3 cup of lentils in a bowl covered with cold water, and let them soak for three hours.
Then when you’re ready to actually make your soup, chop up an onion, a clove of garlic, a celery stalk, and a carrot. Tear up the leaves from a bunch of swiss chard, coarsely chop the stems (discarding the tough ends), and wash thoroughly.
Bring six and half cups of chicken stock (homemade is immensely better, as always) to a simmer. You can either do this in the pot you mean to use for your soup, or you can use a smaller pot and do the next part in the stockpot. You’re going to need two pots, is what I’m saying. So! Either you now have an empty stockpot (or Dutch oven), in which case you are going to want to use it to heat up three tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, or else you are going to go fetch a big skillet and use it to do the same thing. Add the chopped veggies and chard stems (but not the leaves) and sauté until lightly browned, about ten minutes.
Oh! I have a question for someone who has access to an OED. Wikipedia says “The French word ‘sauté’ is a past participle of to jump. This refers to the need to have pan and fat, or oil, to 500 degrees or higher. Whole butter and many oils will not withstand this amount of heat without reaching their ‘smoking point,’ meaning the temperature that they begin to burn. When ingredients are added to this amount of heat they hop and ‘jump’ around in the pan, confirming that you have begun with a sufficient amount of heat.” Meanwhile Wiktionary says “French sauté, past participle of sauter, to jump, because the cook shakes the pan to make the food move around.” What does the OED say?
Anyway, your veggies are browning now, so go ahead and stir in the chard leaves and cook until wilted (just a few minutes). Drain your lentils and add them to the pot (or skillet, whichever you’re using) along with two tablespoons of tomato paste. Stir it all up.
Now, if you’re cooking the veggies in your stockpot, then go ahead and pour your hot chicken stock in there too. Otherwise, if the stock is in the big pot and you’re cooking the veggies in a skillet, then you’re going to add the veggies to the stock. You see how it works. In any case, now everything’s in the same pot. Yay! We’ll have soup soon!
Bring that stock back up to a (low) boil and add 1/2 cup brown rice, along with a rind of Parmesan cheese if you have one on hand (it’s always good to save your Parmesan rinds, they add a very nice complexity to soups). Put in a tablespoon of salt, or less if you’re sensitive to salt, but I like to go big with it. Grind in some pepper too. Let the soup continue to cook at a low boil/fast simmer until the rice is tender. Soup’s up! Fish out that Parmesan rind before you serve it, and dish it up drizzled with olive oil and/or a dusting of fresh-grated Parmesan.