Why I Am Posting These Recipes

I believe that it is healthier for an individual and for the planet to reduce the consumption of animal products in the human diet. However, I love to eat all kinds of delicious food, and find it really, really difficult to go totally vegetarian. Also, my family protests if I serve too many vegetarian meals in a row. So I am committed to making an effort to move towards a vegetarian diet without wholly doing so. I will post recipes several times a week that represent my philosophy of eating well, eating healthy, eating local. Most recipes will be easy to prepare, as I have a busy life. So I expect my followers to be people who love to cook and eat well, want to try to help the planet through their eating (by eating local foods and trying to reduce the use of meat in our diets), and have many other things to do each day besides cook.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lentil Soup with Mushroom Broth and Spinach

I recently visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  Reading the information on the exhibit signs heightened my awareness of why we should choose organic food whenever possible.  Agricultural runoff pollutes the rivers, oceans and lakes.   It depletes oxygen from the water, making it difficult or impossible for some aquatic species to survive.  Yet some other species, such as jellyfish, thrive in the new environment, both because they can live in the polluted conditions and because their predators, such as sea turtles and fish, are diminishing in number.  Did you know that jellyfish populations are increasing at alarming rates in the ocean?  Choose organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible to help maintain our aquatic ecosystems.

I make lentils frequently and have posted recipes in the past.  I often use instant or prepared broth.  The other day, I wanted to keep the animal products out of my meal, and I had run out of the vegetable bouillon I often keep in my pantry.  Luckily, I had dried mushrooms in my pantry, and lots of basic vegetables in the refrigerator.  The result was a broth more delicious than store-bought, and easy to make.  It made a big difference in the final dish.

First, make the mushroom broth, which is very flavorful due to the vegetables:

approximately 1 oz. dried mushrooms (I used a dried forest mix)
2 carrots, cut in half
2 stalks celery, cut in half
any vegetable trimmings, such as celery leaves or bottoms, carrot ends, etc.
1 medium onion, cut in half
Bay leaf
3 quarts water
½ tsp sea salt

Bring above ingredients to a boil in the water.  Simmer for about an hour to extract all the flavor from the vegetables.  Pour the broth through a sieve or strainer to catch all the solids.  Pick out the mushrooms and chop them up to add them back into the soup. 

Then use the broth from above, which should measure about 2 quarts of liquid, to make the lentil soup.

3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 or 2 carrots, diced
1 or 2 parsnips, diced
1 or 2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups black lentils
1 tsp. marjoram
1 bay leaf
2 quarts mushroom broth, or a mixture of mushroom broth and water if you don’t have enough mushroom broth
chopped mushrooms retrieved from solids strained from broth, above
bunch of chopped spinach

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in pot on medium heat.  Saute onions for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent.  Add carrots, parsnips, celery, lentils, marjoram, bay leaf, and broth.  Add chopped mushrooms leftover from the broth, above.  Bring to boil, covered, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until lentils and vegetables are tender, about 30-45 minutes.  Stir in chopped spinach and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 5-6.

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