As the millions of you who have faithfully followed my meandering mutterings have likely deduced, I have no clear idea what to do with my blog. Until the light bulb comes on, I will take the common road of bloggers throughout time and post whichever of my thoughts I believe the world cannot do without. Also, I plan to steal ideas from others. In this post, I take a leaf from my friend Gumbeauxgal's blog, and post a recipe I puttered with that came out pretty darn good.
It all started sometime last week, when my mom wanted to make black bean soup. She got the idea too late in the day to soak the beans, so we talked about other options, like using canned beans (ick). I said she could always have used lentils, which don't need to be soaked before cooking. She hasn't cooked much with lentils, but then reminisced about a soup she used to get at a great no-longer-existent restaurant called Cane's (owned by these people). The soup she remembered had red lentils and some kind of sausage. I had black lentils in the pantry and a curiosity about andouille. So, I decided I would make lentil and andouille soup on Sunday.
Because I spent the last half of the eighties and all of the nineties as a vegetarian, I haven’t cooked much with meat, especially “exotic” meats and sausages that weren’t available in San Diego until the last decade or so. So, though I know how to make a vegetarian lentil soup, I did some research on the web to figure out how long I was going to have to cook the sausage. I came up with this recipe. Based on the reviews, I knew right off I was going to make the following changes:
- I increased the amount of the veggies to one-half cup (more or less) each.
- I omitted the first half hour of cooking the lentils in the broth by themselves.
- I made my own creole seasoning rather than using a commercial product. This is the recipe I used.
- I used twelve ounces of sausage.
- I used fresh thyme.
Then I had to make some further modifications due to personal limitations:
- I could not get hold of my aforementioned friend Gumbeauxgal to find out whether good andouille is available in a San Diego market. Rather than risk disaster, I instead opted to use Trader Joe’s smoked chicken-turkey-garlic sausage.
- My mom hates, hates, hates the texture of large pieces of cooked onions, celery, peppers, and probably some other vegetables. For my mom, large is defined as detectable. Therefore, instead of dicing or even mincing the vegetables, I essentially turned them into pulp in the food processor. I drained off some of the water that pooled in the bottom of the processor, and then sweated them with a bit of salt for five or ten minutes.
- I couldn’t find beef broth, so I used all low-sodium, organic chicken broth and reduced the amount of broth from nine cups to eight.
- Finally, to make extra super sure that my mom would not notice any sort of vegetation, after cooking, I stuck the ol’ stick blender in there (being sure not to “catch” any of the sausage) and whirred it around for awhile. It seems to have worked!
After about an hour of making my house smell like smoky sausage heaven, the soup came out pretty darn good. My mom loved it, which means I successfully hid all the veggies from her (and makes me think those books that tell you how to sneak veggies into your kids by pureeing them must have some merit). Though smoky, the sausages weren’t overly salty, so, with the couple big pinches of kosher salt I added during the cooking process, the soup was perfectly seasoned. There was a bit of a kick from the cayenne in the creole seasoning, but not too much, so this soup would be good for kids. Sourdough rolls dipped in were divine. And in the end, it’s healthy!
As good as it was, I will continue to refine this soup. For me, it was a little thin, so I will definitely increase the amount of lentils the next time I make it. I also felt it was a bit celery-riffic, so I would change the vegetable proportions to those used in mirepoix. Here are some of the other tweaks I will try:
- Create a vegetarian version using vegetarian sausage and/or liquid smoke and vegetable broth.
- Increase the cayenne, if not serving kids.
- Find out how to get andouille and use it. I’m still dying to know what it tastes like!
- Experiment with different varieties of lentils.
- Add rice.
- When using the chicken sausage or other lower salt sausage, render pancetta or bacon for the fat in which to start sautéing the mirepoix.
- When using the stick blender in the future, I will cook the sausages whole so I can remove them easily, blend, and then cut them up and put them back in.
While I was shopping at Trader Joe’s for the remaining ingredients I wanted for the soup, I remember standing in front of the Greek yogurt section wondering if I ought to get some for the week. I couldn’t think of anything I would use it for, so I didn’t get any. It would have been absolutely perfect dolloped on top of a nice hot bowl of this soup. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that! Let that be a lesson to you all. Always get the Greek yogurt.