Want to get your new year off to a good start? No, I'm not talking about the umpteenth resolution to lose weight. I'm talking about lentils. They are traditionally eaten by many Italians on January 1 to augur a year of prosperity and good luck.
I would have gotten this to you earlier so you'd have more time to cook this today, but my computer was non compos mentis until a half hour ago, when it finally came to its senses and started working again. (Personally, I think it just wanted to watch the Philadelphia Mummer's Parade in its entirety just once.)
You can enjoy this soup any time of the year, although it's particularly welcome on a cold winter day, joined by a hunk of freshly baked bread straight out of the oven. You did read yesterday's post and run right out to get some yeast, right? Right.
I use Italian sausage in this recipe - the kind you get when you order a sausage and pepper sandwich at any Italian street festival. In Italy, lentils are served on New Year's Day with a type of sausage called cotechino, or with zampone, a stuffed pig's trotter. Neither is easy to find where I live, but truth be told, I don't like either of them.
If you prefer, leave the sausage out entirely and make it a vegetarian soup. It will still be good, but not as rich in flavor. This makes a LOT of soup. It would be perfect to invite a gang of friends for an informal meal and serve this with a salad and some cheese and crackers. Otherwise, it stores well in the freezer.
Lentil Sausage Soup
3 links, or about 10 ounces Italian sausage
1 lb. dry lentils
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, or 2 small carrots, sliced
4 cups Tuscan, or lacinato kale, chopped (or regular kale if you can't find the other kind)
12 cups water
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsps. dried basil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Take the casing off the sausages and fry in a skillet, breaking up the links into bite-size pieces. Drain.
Rinse the lentils in a colander. In a separate large pot, saute the onion, celery and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the lentils and the rest of the ingredients, including the drained sausage. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. You may need to add more water if the soup gets too thick. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.