summer greens and lentil soup with parmesan croutons

The photos here make this soup look like one giant bowl of croutons, but I swear it’s really more one giant bowl of greens.  A great way to use up whatever leafy greens you have hanging around, this is the kind of one-bowl meal we’ve been eating a lot of lately.

My fridge has been packed to the brim with farm veggies (hey, I’m not complaining), which means the nightly dinner routine goes something like this:

Step One:  Open fridge.

Step Two:  Pick up large unwieldy bag of garlic scapes which has tumbled all over the fridge, the floor, and you.

Step Three:  Asses fridge contents while pouring a large glass of wine.

Step Four:  Drink said glass of wine while scheming a dinner plan which uses as many vegetables as possible; garlic scapes clearly mandatory.

The result of this precarious process has been, miraculously, some pretty fantastic meals.  In a fit of  “oh my god we have 5 different kinds of rapidly wilting herbs in here,” I whirled them ALL together in the food processor to make a pesto of sorts which, tossed with fresh pasta, favas, snap peas, chard, and a little pasta water made for one of our favorite summer meals so far.

The soup here is another clear favorite.  John and I declared it the best meal of the season, which may have been partly because the previous night we scarffed down beers and giant plate of poutine for dinner.  (July 4th weekend binge anyone?)  Nonetheless, it’s the kind of thing I could eat again and again.  Rich with flavor – thanks largely to a deeply caramelized onion base; filling without being heavy; and loaded with fresh vegetables; this soup requires no side salad and no bread – a delicious meal all on its own!

Serves 3-4 as a main dish depending on your appetite.  6-8 as a starter.

One Year Ago: Cherry Pie X.

For the Soup

  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced (or use 2-3 garlic scapes, finely minced)
  • 1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup green lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 6 to 7 cups good tasting chicken or vegetable stock
  • A small handful spaghetti (I can’t get enough of the brown rice pasta – that’s what I used here)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch chard, washed, de-stemmed, and thinly sliced

To Serve

  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • A little grated parmesan
  • Chopped fresh herbs – I opted for fresh dill and basil; the dill was particularly refreshing here

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil, and once hot, add the onion.  Sautee about 2 minutes until softened, then reduce the heat to low-medium and cook until the onion is well caramelized – about 30 minutes.

Once the onion is deep amber in color, add the garlic, tomato, and lentils.  Stir well and add 2/3 of the stock.  Cover the pan, increase the heat to medium, and simmer until the lentils are tender – about 35-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Break the spaghetti into small pieces and add them to the pot.  Cook until al dente – about 7 minutes, or according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Once the lentils are cooked, remove the lid and add the soy sauce and white wine.  Add all or some of the reserved stock, depending on how much stock your lentils have absorbed.  Simmer 2-3 minutes and then taste and season with salt and pepper.  At this point, the soup can be turned off, covered, and held until just before you are ready to serve.

When you are ready to serve, return the soup to a boil, add the cooked pasta and the greens.  Cover and cook just until the greens are wilted – 1 to 2 minutes.  Serve immediately garnished with the croutons (below), parmesan, olive oil, and fresh herbs.

For the Parmesan Croutons

  • 2 thick slices country style bread, cut into cubes
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Sea salt
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan

Preheat your broiler.  Toss the bread cubes with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a little salt in an oven safe dish.  Broil until crispy, turning often; about 5 minutes total.  Sprinkle over the parmesan and return to the broiler until the cheese is just melted.  Serve immediately.