There’s a term in Italian cooking called “cucina povera” meaning poor kitchen or cooking of the poor. I grew up with this cooking…not that we were poor but that we believed in a philosophy of using humble ingredients and what was on hand to make something good to eat. I still believe in this philosophy and find that not only does it make sense philosophically…but meets the true test of taste. Does it taste good?
This lentil soup, like all bean soups are humble, flavorful, filling and tasty. I made a big pot and ate a bowl of it. The next day I found some shiitake mushrooms and bok choy in my fridge, sautéed them with a bit of oil, garlic and hot crushed pepper and topped my lentil soup! So here you have it…lentil soup fully loaded. And yes, of course you can do this with many types of soup.
1 cup (128 g) lentils – rinsed
4 cups (.95 liter) chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 medium onion – chopped
1 clove garlic – chopped
3 sun dried tomato slices – finely diced
3 tablespoons of olive oil (or a small amount to cook the onion and garlic)
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of cumin
pinch of curry
pinch of herb de province (or other favorite dry herbs)
Salt and pepper to taste
6 to 7 leaves leaves of baby bok choy – rinsed and sliced
5 – 6 shiitake mushrooms – sliced
1 garlic clove – finely chopped
1 dried chili pepper – crushed
Olive oil – enough to lightly cover the bottom of the skillet
Place a large saucepan over medium heat, add the oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and cook until they soften (about 2 to 3 minutes) and follow with the garlic and the pepper flakes and cook just until it begins to color (about 30 seconds).
Add the lentils and the broth and bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 to 45 minutes until they begin to break down and are cooked through.
In the meantime bring a skillet over medium/high heat. Add the oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Add the mushrooms and cook until crispy and browned on all sides (about 4 or 5 minutes). Set aside, add a bit more oil to the pan, cook the garlic and chili peppers for about 30 seconds. Add the bok chok and a splash of water or broth, cover, lower the heat and cook until it begins to wilt, about 3 or 4 minutes.
Serve by ladling the soup into bowls, and topping with the bok choy and mushrooms.