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Lentil and Escarole Soup

March 9, 2011

I’ve been on a soup spree lately with all the cold, damp weather we’ve been having! My favorite soups are chunky, substantial ones full of vegetables and beans (or other legumes). Hearty lentil soup paired with crusty bread is a perfect light supper for the end of winter – it’s filling without being heavy, and it’s wonderfully warming on those days when the temperature is hovering right around freezing and the humidity creeps right to the bones. The varied flavors and textures of brown lentils with mildly bitter escarole greens marry well in this recipe, which is taken from a special Soups and Stews issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

Lentil and escarole soup

Serves 6

Vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth to make the recipe vegetarian.

Ingredients

  • 1/4  cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1  medium carrot, peeled and diced medium
  • 1  medium onion, diced small
  • 1  medium celery rib, diced small
  • 6  medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
  • 2  tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Table salt
  • 4  cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3  cups water
  • 1  (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 8  ounces brown lentils, picked through for stones and rinsed
  • 1  Parmesan cheese rind, about 4×2 inches
  • 2  bay leaves
  • 1  medium head escarole (about 8 oz), cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
  • Ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed 6-quart Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add carrot, onion, celery, garlic, parsley, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are quite soft, dramatically reduced in volume, and very lightly browned, 17-20 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add broth, water, tomatoes, lentils, Parmesan rind, and bay leaves; bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer until lentils are soft, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
  2. Stir in escarole and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into warmed bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.

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