I made lentil soup Monday night, which was and always is more than just dinner. Lentil soup is my edible version of taking confession. Cleaning my slate as it were.
After a night like Sunday night, lentil soup was really the only thing to do. The fact that I ate three meals was the least of my problems. (Okay, they weren’t all meals exactly: I had some Kobe beef sliders and three types of French fries at XIV, the Michael Mina resto on Sunset Boulevard that is currently on life support, some thinly sliced ham worth its weight in foie gras cotton candy at The Bazaar, and then I had a meal: about 10,000 small plates of perfection at AOC). But the part that truly gave me a hangover had nothing to do with what I ingested. It was more about the air of drama that swirled about the evening. At the first restaurant, my head was officially ripped off by another writer after I asked her a question I’d evidently asked her before. Our experience at The Bazaar was a bizarre trip to Miami that included a guy with a big tan and bigger biceps in ripped jeans (and was his hair blow-dried?), a celebrity chef with a model half his age (and bare legs twice as long), $600 check that included $200 in Red Bulls-and-vodka, and a passel of girls in too small of clothes, including one that was wearing, I swear I couldn’t make this shit up, a top hat. When we left Miami to get some grub in an atmosphere that was more our speed, at AOC, I actually got flipped off. By someone I knew. And he wasn’t even kidding. Not surprisingly, the following day was a day of email exchanges, apologies, and various friendings and yes, even unfriendings on Facebook. It was exhausting. And time for lentil soup.
I make my lentil soup roughly the same way every time, give or take a few slices of bacon, or a leek or two. I put tons of onions in mine, which makes it slightly sweet, and I like anything sweet. Lentils have a lot of good qualities–they’re healthy and cheap–but one of the things I like best about them is that they don’t need to be soaked, which means I cook my soup and eat it too, all in the same day, and then wake up the next morning a better person in the eyes of God.
To make lentils soup, start with a large soup pot over high heat and pour in some olive oil (about 1/4 cup, but don’t measure: just use whatever it takes to cover the bottom of the pot). Add 2 or 3 onions (I use yellow onions; sweet Spanish ones if I have them) to the pot as you chop them. Throw in an ancho chile and a few sprigs of thyme if you happen to have some growing outside or a neighbor, like mine, who does. Sprinkle the whole deal with kosher salt, and start chopping carrots and celery (1 or 2 stalks). I like a lot of carrots in my lentil soup. It makes me feel like I’m eating vegetables (because I am), but use what you want: two, five, it’ll still be lentil soup. Saute all the vegetables, stirring whenever you think about it, for 5 or 10 minutes, until they’re nice and soft. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute, until your kitchen smells like garlic but not so long that the garlic browns. Add 3 quarts of chicken or vegetable broth, a fresh bay leaf if you have one, and a pound of green lentils. Bring the whole thing to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer the soup until the lentils are the texture of something you want to eat. This will take about an hour, but it will be even better after more time, and better still the next day. Once the soup is done, take out the chile and the bay leaf and throw in a handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley. I used to think parsley was just about adding green specks to your food, but all you have to do is chop up some of the stuff fresh and you figure out that it’s about its fresh, grassy flavor. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon (or stir in a tablespoon or two of red wine or sherry vinegar), and season the soup with more salt if it needs it. (It probably does.). Serve the soup with a sprinkling of parsley, a sprinkling of Maldon salt, and a drizzle of finishing-quality extra virgin olive oil. Eat. And may peace be with you.