Monday, March 26, 2012

GREEK LENTIL SOUP (Fakés Soupa, Φακές Σούπα)



I have been trying to get around to making Greek lentil soup for a month now. Today was the day.  I added lots of soup vegetables to compliment the lentils. I used parsnip and leeks which are not found in traditional versions of Greek lentil soup, but why not amplify its flavor a bit?  The amount of tomato used depends on the cook.  If you like a really strong lentil flavor, cut down on some of the tomatoes and tomato paste.  If you like tomatoes, use them. The important thing is that anyway it's cooked, lentil soup is always fragrant and tastes oh so good. Lentils are very high in protein, dietary fiber, thiamine and iron.  They are a very healthy food.  Be sure to always soak lentils before cooking.  An hour or maybe two is good.  Soaking not only makes them softer for cooking, but also increases their nutritional potency. 

Ingredients:


2 cups green lentils
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, divided, chopped
2 leeks, washed very well, white and light green parts, chopped
4 or 5 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, chopped…I love smashing garlic!
6 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots chopped
2 medium size tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
optional - 1 parsnip, chopped very thinly, or better yet, grated 
4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 or 2 tablespoons tomato paste, depending on how "red" you want the soup
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (well, I may have used a little more) 
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano  
6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock or filtered water, plus additional liquid  as needed
optional - vinegar to be served on the side 
optional - some grated Pecorino Romano cheese such as "Locatelli," to top the soup, if you're like me and do not like vinegar 


Lots of vegetables in this soup...  More than you see in the picture...

Directions:
  • Pick over the lentils to make sure there are no small rocks or other debris mixed in.  Rinse them and place them in a large bowl.  Cover them with water.  Let them sit in the water for about one hour.  Drain and reserve for use in the soup.  You'll notice that as the lentils soak and absorb water they will start to turn greener than they were in their dry state.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large heavy Dutch oven and sauté one of the onions, the leeks, and the garlic for 10 minutes.  (You may think we are using a lot of leeks and onions, but you'll see that they will decrease in volume as they are being  sautéed). Turn off the heat. 
  • Add the other onion, the celery, parsnip, tomatoes, carrots, thyme, and 2 tablespoons of the parsley.  Mix well
  • Add the lentils (drained), and mix well.  
  • Add the 6 cups of stock, the tomato paste, and the bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper, turn on the heat and bring to a boil.  
  • Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour.  If the heat is on low and you are using a heavy Dutch oven, you don't even need to lift the lid and stir the soup.  Just let it simmer and perfume the house with its beautiful aroma!
  • After an hour check on the soup, give it a good stir and add the oregano. Taste it and season with more salt and pepper if needed. It will probably need to cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.
  • At the end of the cooking time add the rest of the parsley.  You may need to add more stock or some water to bring the soup to the consistency that you prefer.
I served it with toasted olive fougasse bread.  It was bakery bought and  excellent!
  • Serve the lentil soup hot.  Offer some vinegar at the table because it's a tradition to top the soup with vinegar.   In our house there are two camps:  pro lentils with vinegar and anti lentils with vinegar. I belong to the latter camp.  I don't care for vinegar, but I do love cheese, so I top my soup with a little grated Parmesan.  That's not traditional, but... hey, this is my recipe!.  
  • I made a simple salad to go with the lentils:
  • One English cucumber peeled and sliced, half a red onion, and some olives.  Place in a bowl and mix.  I mixed it so well, that the olives can't be seen in the picture!  Trust me, they are in there.
  • Top with feta cheese cut into chunks and season with olive oil, your favorite vinegar (or use lemon juice or a combination of the two), black pepper and oregano.  No salt in this salad, since there is salt in the feta cheese and the olives.  
This was a great Sunday dinner which all of us enjoyed. After dinner we each tasted some spanakopita which my mother and a friend had made earlier.  They prepared homemade phyllo dough, which was spectacular. Thin and crunchy.  I should have taken pictures, why didn't I take pictures?  They made three and a half batches.  The three pitas will be frozen and cooked for Easter, and the small pita was baked and shared between us.  I'm having some spanakopita for breakfast tomorrow, and more lentil soup for dinner.  Lovely!


I am linking this post to Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen. Every Sunday, Deb, from “Kahakai Kitchen” has a round up of contributed posts featuring recipes of soup, salad or sandwiches.


6 comments:

  1. Nice recipe Ana. I'll try to make it now that the weather got cold again. I make lentil soup in the winter, but only Steve and I eat it. The kids stay away from it so far. Maybe they'll change their minds as they're growing up.

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  2. I know I will like this lentil soup Ana, sounds great! I use leeks and parsnips in my slit pea soup. I think you did well with all these veggies added to it!

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  3. Lentil soup was my dad's favorite soup hand in hand with Italian Wedding soup. My dad loved soup and everybody made it for him including my mom, his mom and his stepmom. She made the best soups of everyone. In this tiny kitchen in this tiny row home in famous South Philly, home of the famous cheesesteak, out would come the largest pots of homemade soup. So every year on New Years Day, my dad would take us to the mummers parade on famous Broad Street. My grandfather lived just off Broad so we would walk to the parade from his house. After the parade we would go back to my grandfathers and have hot soup, and of course, Italian bread.

    The ingredients for her soup, pretty much the same I would say except for parsnip and Greek oregano. But......she did make hew own chicken stock because she always made two pots of soup at the one time. Lentil and Italian Wedding. And....to her Lentil soup she added chopped bits of pepperoni. And of course there was always "Locatelli" cheese for all soups. Actually the "Locatelli" cheese never left the kitchen table. It's an Italian sort of thing.

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  4. Thanks Disco, what a heartwarming comment. Those were the days!!! We have to get one more mummers parade under our belts before we are too old.
    Now that you mention it, I think you told me about adding pepperoni in lentil soup. But having two pots of soup for dinner? That must have been so wonderful! I made a lot of soup and froze some. I included parsnip for the first time. Usually parsnip is used when you make chicken stock, so I figured by including it in the soup I would add more flavor to the liquid. (It's not necessary to have the parsnip). Just before logging on to my computer and finding your comment, I had a snack of lentil soup. Four days later and it's still good!
    Best wishes, Ana.

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  5. I love lentil soup and like the vegetables you added, looks delicious! Nice and hearty!

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  6. This does look delicious--lentil soup is the best. I am also in love with that salad too. Thanks for sharing with Souper Sundays! ;-)

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