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Hearty Lentil Soup “Can you stay for dinner?” an elementary schoolmate asked me decades ago. “We’re having lentil soup, she said. “What are lentils?” I asked. Being of Asian descent, lentils had never passed through my lips before. To my delight, I found her family’s lentil soup to be rich in flavor and texture and I will forever associate lentils with her.

Lentils, like other legumes, are high in fiber and protein and low in fat. But unlike other legumes, there’s no need to presoak lentils and they take less time to cook. The dominant flavors in this robust soup come from the earthiness of the lentils and the fresh vegetables, but the subtle undertones come from two surprising ingredients: Dijon mustard and vinegar. This soup is hostess-friendly, too, because it can be made a day in advance and it tastes even better when served the second day!

Hearty Lentil Soup
Recipe from the Sacramento Bee

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely diced onion
3 large garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup finely diced carrot
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1½ cups French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Chopped celery leaves and parsley, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over high heat. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to color around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, mince or pound the garlic in a mortar with 1 teaspoon salt.

3. Work the tomato paste into the onion, then add the garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaves and parsley and cook for 3 minutes.

4. Add the lentils, 2 quarts of water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, 24 to 35 minutes.

5. Stir in the mustard and vinegar. Taste and add more of either as needed.

6. Check the salt, season with plenty of pepper, remove the bay leaves and serve, garnished with the celery leaves and parsley.

7. The longer the soup sits before serving, the better it will taste.

Serves 4 to 6

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I use Italian parsley when I make this soup.

2. Because I like the way French green lentils hold their shape, I prefer using them in this soup over brown lentils.

3. The second time I made this soup, I used vegetable broth in place of the water. I can honestly say that there was no noticeable improvement in flavor using the broth, so I don’t recommend spending extra money on vegetable broth. This is not to say, though, that homemade vegetable stock wouldn’t have added a richness to the soup.

ENJOY!

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Cinnamon Beef Noodles Ribbons of fat noodles soak up a spicy and aromatic broth while tender chunks of beef and green spinach leaves float by. How’s that for comfort food on a cold night? The use of cinnamon in a beef and noodle recipe may leave some people wondering. Wonder no more. For without a doubt, the cinnamon, together with the ginger, aniseed, and hot chile paste, undeniably adds a lovely complexity to the flavors in this simple and appealing dish.

Cinnamon Beef Noodles
Nina Simonds Asian Noodles Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon safflower or corn oil

Chile-Cinnamon Seasonings:
6 scallions, trimmed, cut into 1½-inch sections, and smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife

6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed lightly with flat side of a cleaver, and thinly sliced

4 slices fresh ginger (about the size of a quarter), smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife

1½ teaspoons hot chile paste

2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon aniseed

Remaining Ingredients:
8½ cups water

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 pounds chuck or beef stew meat, trimmed of fat and gristle, and cut into 1½-inch cubes

10-ounces spinach, trimmed, rinsed, and drained

1/2 pound flat Chinese wheat-flour noodles, udon, or other flat noodles, such as fettuccine, cooked until just tender, rinsed under warm water, and drained

3 tablespoons minced scallions

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat a large pot or casserole over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until hot, about 30 seconds. Add the chile-cinnamon seasonings and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

2. Add the water and the soy sauce and bring to a boil.

3. Add the beef and bring back to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours, or until the beef is very tender. Skim the surface to remove any impurities or fat.

5. Remove the ginger slices and cinnamon sticks and discard.

6. Add the spinach and bring to a boil.

7. Divide the noodles among six soup bowls. Ladle the meat, spinach, and broth over the noodles and sprinkle with scallions. Serve.

6 Servings

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used half low-sodium soy and half regular soy, because I was concerned about the broth being too salty. It was just right. No additional salt was needed.

2. Because I had 3 pounds of meat, I added an additional stick of cinnamon to the pot.

3. Adding chunks of red pepper will contrast the spinach nicely and give the dish a little bit more color.

4. In her recipe Ms. Simonds states, “The flavor gets better and better every time you reheat it.” Don’t you love food that gets better with time!

ENJOY!

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