Sunday, June 7, 2009

Red Pepper, Tomato, and Spinach Lentil Soup and Garden Greens With Fried Polenta

4 cups of lentil/rice/pea mix (found in cupboard)
2 cartons roasted red pepper and tomato soup ( found in cupboard)
1/2 large yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (butter substitute)
ground guajiillo chili powder (to taste)
salt (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
1 plastic shopping bag of garden greens ( broccoli greens, red and yellow chard, spinach)

Soak the lentil mixture overnight. Or at least for a few hours. The less soaking time, the more cooking time. If you don't have a lot of foresight on a bean/lentil meal you can boil them in water like pasta for up to 40 minutes, before adding them to the rest of the soup. I am a proponent of "let it all soak in" for this kind of soup so I like to let it cook with everything else on medium low for a while until everything is soft. I always start with some amount of liquid that fills the pot with the lentils and then add more throughout the process. I should be honest. I never measure anything. Cooking for me is very much like mixing paint. It is intuitive. I make about as much as I need, and I often use similar combinations based on what ingredients are available. Often times a dish evolves as I go through the cupboards and find something I had forgotten about, or add a bit too much of one flavor and need to balance it with another. Really these recipes are translations of a much more complex and specific process. If you want to cook like me your going to have to do a few things first. Get a beer. If you don't have a beer your not doing it right. Learn to improvise and take risks. Try food as its cooking. If you don't know what it tastes like you shouldn't give it to someone else. And you won't know how much of any of the ingredients to put in or even which ones.
So you put your lentils (soaked overnight or pre-boiled) into the pot with the found red pepper tomato soup base, and set it on high with a lid, while you mince the garlic and onion. Melt the butter in a small saucepan (medium low) and add the onion and garlic. Cook that on low, stirring occasionally as you wait for the soup to boil. When its boiling reduce the heat to a simmer (med low) add the butter garlic onion mixture and a preliminary amount of the spices, stir well, and start working on the salad.

1 bag of garden greens ( spinach, romaine, buttercrunch, mustard, kale)
1 roll of precooked polenta (found in fridge, thanks Elizabeth!)
1/8 of a bag of sunflower seeds (cabinet)
2 tomatos
4 small onions found in front garden

balsamic vinegar
olive oil
more brown sugar than you'd think
lemon juice
horseradish (from the garden, minced)
guajillo pepper
CUMIN (magic ingredient)

I cannot describe to you how i made this dressing. I had to make a lot of it to get it right. It was perfect. As for the salad: Chop the polenta into bite size sections and fry it in enough oil to cover it, you want to get it golden brown all around. Throw some of those whole arbol peppers in the oil and some salt. Toast the sunflower seeds by throwing them in a cast iron pan and forgetting about them while you stir the soup and chop the tomatoes and lettuce. Its ok if they get a bit burned. It rounds out the flavor quite nicely. Toss the sunflower seeds and tomatoes in the lettuce with the dressing. Then add the polenta, toss again. Garnish with the onions.

When the peas and lentils are soft, add the spinach stir in and turn off the heat, return the lid, the greens will be cooked in a matter of minutes. Taste the soup. Edit. Serve with a dollop of Mexican sour cream.

*After dinner treat: The neighbours poke their head over the fence while we were out back and Josh gave them some greens for the garden. In return they sent over some homemade mint ice cream. I fried up some plaintains in a cast iron pan with salt and brown sugar-coat both sides and fry until the sugar caramelizes. The combination was DIVINE.

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