For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. ~ T.S. Eliot
Happy New Year! We have once again turned the page of our calendars to January 1st. This yearly tradition brings the promise of new beginnings and good things to come. Accompanied by the customary festivities and lots of popped corks, cheers to 2013!
Life is filled with ups and downs and as I have found, one year is not always better or worse than another, but starting a new chapter gives us pause and makes us think about things we can do better or differently.
Resolutions never seem to make it past the first few weeks of January, however, thinking about goals and changes for our life provides a period of retrospection of the past and anticipation for the future. Here are a few things I know I need to work on in 2013.
Exercise and eat better. Most people feel the need to cut back on decadent food and drink after the festivities of the holidays and I am one of them. Mr. B and I really do need to lose a few pounds. Combined with lots of incredibly good food this past year and many hours of sitting and working on the computer, those dreaded extra pounds have crept up quietly and slowly and need to be banished. Forever. I don’t like the way I feel or look, so exercise will be an important part of my every day schedule. It’s not only good for your body; working out exercises your mind, too. It gives you more energy and relieves stress. I know I could use both. How about you?
Getting back in the kitchen. The love of cooking is what brought me to this place, however, it seems it is the one thing I do the least of these days. I do cook quite a bit and bake, but it’s usually on the weekend and it is often for the website, like a chef’s recipe. It is the nightly dinner hour that takes a hit many days and at 7 pm after working all day, I find that I am throwing things together from the fridge, pantry, and freezer or we head out for a quick bite. I want to focus on getting in the kitchen earlier in the day so that there is time to prepare a relaxed meal in the evenings. Which leads me to the next goal and the most important.
Disengage. Get up and walk away from the computer. So many of us are obsessed with and exhaustively tied to technology. We can’t have a conversation or read a newspaper without a mobile device. It is long overdue and high time to make time to get outside and enjoy the gorgeous day. Go shopping. Have lunch with a friend. Call a friend on the phone and not text them. They will be pleasantly surprised to hear your voice. That email can wait. Trust me. It will still be there when you get back. Unless of course, you decide to delete it.
So with those few simple goals for the New Year, here is a recipe for one of the dishes I enjoy preparing the most, a hearty pot of soup. There is nothing more satisfying and comforting on a dreary winter’s day than a steaming hot bowl of soup. It is simple and quick to prepare and needs little else beside a salad and a loaf of crusty bread to have a complete meal. Soups like this freeze well, so they are perfect for those hectic nights when you aren’t able to prepare an entire dinner, but still want a healthy meal to serve your family.
This recipe is a classic combination of sausage, kale, and lentils. While this soup does include pork sausage (and you could substitute a good chicken sausage), it is also a nice way to add more beans to your diet. Lentils are an excellent protein. I intend to incorporate even more grains and beans in our diet this coming year as we continue to eat less meat.
I used the hot version of local pork sausage that was delightfully seasoned with a hefty amount of fennel seed. While the soup was pretty fiery at first, the heat mellowed and the flavors came together nicely. All it needed was a little salt and pepper and a generous grating of Pecorino Romano cheese to finish the soup.
What is important to change in your life this year? Have you set some goals for yourself and your family? I wish you all the best for the New Year. May it be a healthy, happy and prosperous year for you!
Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard, and Garlic
Yield: Serves 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 large links of sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casing (I used hot local pork sausage)
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, cut into crescents
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into crescents
4 cloves garlic, sliced (reserve half for later in the recipe)
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (Optional - I did not use them since I substituted hot sausage)
1 cup brown lentils, sorted
2 bay leaves
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
6 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups shredded red Swiss chard leaves or kale (I used kale)
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pot) in a large pot on medium heat and, when it’s hot, add the sausage. Break up the sausage with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. (* I drained the fat at this point since there was quite a bit. I left about a tablespoon of fat in the pot.)
2. Add the onion, celery, the first two garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and if you like your soup spicy, a pinch of red pepper flakes (* and if you have used sweet sausage, rather than hot sausage). Stir, then add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes (It may be necessary to add more water if the soup gets too thick.)
3. When the lentils are cooked, add the Swiss chard or kale and cook until the leaves are tender, just a few minutes more. Discard the bay leaves.
4. To finish (and don’t skip this step!) add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil to a small pot along with the remaining garlic; cook on medium heat just until the garlic turns soft (1 to 2 minutes) and then stir that, oil and all, into the soup. Drizzle the soup with more fresh olive oil and Percorino Romano cheese and pass more cheese at the table. Serve the soup hot. Leftovers will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
Recipe is from Gina DePalma, pastry chef at Babbo - New York
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