Late January is usually the time when I abandon my new year’s dieting resolution. During the first week of the year, I cook wholesome foods like tofu and exotic, crunchy grains. For the beginning of 2008, I even went so far as to drink a juice cocktail of carrots, parsley, garlic, and wheat grass – a sobering experience indeed. As time progresses, my cocktails begin to include alcohol, and I begin to crave heavy, winter fare.
This year, however, I have an added incentive to keep my resolution: the terror of looking like a whale in my wedding dress. I know all brides are supposed to be beautiful, but the camera adds ten pounds and wedding pictures last forever. So, when I normally would have been braising short ribs or pan-frying chicken, I instead started off January’s fourth week by preparing a lentil soup. This hearty dish satisfied my winter appetite without causing a crisis in my midsection.
Unfortunately, my virtue wasn’t absolute. I couldn’t help but sneak a little salt pork into the soup. But, I limited myself to a tiny slab, using it as a subtle flavoring. I added all the vegetables of my ill-advised juice cocktail, excluding the wheat grass, of course. Needless to say, they were far tastier in this incarnation, which was delicious and provided enough leftovers for healthful lunches for the rest of the week.
1 medium piece of salt pork, scored (see picture above)
2 tbs. olive oil
1 large leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bag, green lentils
1 cup of dry white wine
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
1 28-oz can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
6 cups of chicken stock
2 tbs. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Blanch the salt pork in boiling water for one minute. Place the olive oil in a large pot and warm over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the leek, carrot, onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add the lentils and sauté until they begin to darken. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and then add the bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes, stock and salt pork. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are soft but still retain their shape, about 45 minutes. Puree one cup of the soup in a blender, and then return to pot. Add the vinegar, salt, pepper.