Monday, October 17, 2011

sisters and soup

It is hard for me to write these things and not cry. I do not live near my sisters and sometimes I miss them so much it takes my breath away.

When I speak with friends with young daughters who routinely fight, steal each others clothes, and generally behave terribly towards one another, I tell them to take heart. These were all things my sisters and I did to one another and yet now I consider them my dearest friends. (I carry with me a great memory of an epic battle that ended when my mom walked in to find my older sister ripping buttons off my favorite shirt while I was smashing and scratching my sisters CDs. Yeah, we didn't mess around.)

We grew up eating homemade soup regularly- lentil, bean, split pea, oyster stew, halibut chowder, Chinese chicken noodle- these were some of our favorites. As little girls we loved soup so much, we used to talk endlessly about growing up and starting a restaurant called "Three Sisters Soup Kitchen."

Present day, my oldest sister always has a pot of Ina's lentil soup waiting for me when I get off the plane. I usually take an evening flight and after trekking around an airport and jostling with strangers, there is nothing more comforting than to sit down at her kitchen table to a bowl of this. I am amazed that in spite of the craziness of her week (my sister is a gifted critical care nurse) she always finds time to make me soup. We talk late into the night and continue the conversations of life- how to find meaning in work, our new favorite food ideas, learning to be kind to ourselves, and what item at J.Crew this season we cannot live without.

This soup is cozy and substantial and packs wonderful flavor with the addition of thyme and cumin.
I hope you share it with someone you love.
The recipe is from The Barefoot Contessa.

lentil vegetable soup

1 pound French green lentils*
4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 large onions)
4 cups chopped leeks, white part only (2 leeks)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups medium diced celery (8 stalks)
3 cups medium diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
3 quarts chicken stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine or red wine vinegar
freshly grated parmesan cheese

1) In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

2) In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender.

3) Add the celery and carrots and saute for 10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for one hour, until the lentils are cooked through.

4) Check the seasonings. Add the red wine and serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated parmesan.

*When I make this, I use regular lentils. My sister loves me and therefore takes the time to find the fancy French lentils.
*My sister also adds 1 lb. sliced kielbasa. The smoky flavor is perfect with lentils.
*I have been known to substitute small cubes of butternut squash for the carrots. I think the sweetness of the squash is very good here.


  1. enjoyed the stories of the sisters...I miss mine alot...she is in Heaven but I have good memories...

  2. We make Ina's roasted tomato basil whenever Carole comes to visit. I think the fact that she's just getting in from a long flight is what makes her believe it is so amazing. Tonight I'm making Tara's hamburger vegetable soup for the family. Soup is so comforting. Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. I'm so glad you posted this! My sweet hubby LOVES lentils and I have just never had a good enough recipe to really come around to them. How could I have overlooked Ina!?! How!?!?! Unacceptable. But as you always do, my friend, you point to me to what is needed with grace and hope. Think I'll try to get some lentils this weekend. And bake another massive batch of those pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for good measure. :) Love, Tara

  4. @ Tisha- I have the best memories of tomato basil soup with both you and Tara!

  5. Wendy- your words remind me to treasure up moments with loved ones. There is a such a special bond with sisters!

  6. Love this post because I know and love the bond of sisterhood.