lentil soup with beef

We went up to the mountains last weekend to celebrate my (ahem) 29th birthday…again!  When I told non-Arizonan friends we went “up north,” I was questioned about what it means, exactly, to go “up north” in Arizona.  Personally, it’s pretty much anywhere it isn’t 90 degrees on my birthday.  For us, that meant stealing off to Pine, AZ, located about 110 miles northeast of the valley and tucked into the mountains just below the Mogollon Rim.  At 5,500 feet of elevation, it meant I got to wear jeans and socks and real shoes.  With closed toes!!  Ahhhhh…

It also meant I didn’t have to cook because, you see, it was my birthday weekend, and those duties were off-limits to me.  I got to sit on the porch and drink red wine and read.  I got to relax and hike and see some pretty spectacular scenery.  Perfect for a birthday weekend, if you ask me.

We did eat a couple of meals out, including lunch one day at a cute little mom-and-pop restaurant called The Randall House.  The air was cool, the fall leaves were crunchy underfoot, and the sun was shining brightly in a gorgeous blue sky.  The day called for lunch in the shade on the patio and a cup of their homemade Beef and Lentil Soup.

Needless to say, I was disappointed at the end.  Disappointed it was gone.  Disappointed I hadn’t ordered a bowl instead of a cup.  Disappointed they wouldn’t give me the super-secret recipe!!  So, of course, when we got home I set out to replicate the amazing soup I’d had at The Randall House.  It had to be done!  It was of such urgency, I didn’t even photograph the prep work.

This recipe was super easy and came courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis at The Food Network.  If I set out to recreate a really good bowl of homemade soup, this recipe was spot on.  The soup is incredibly flavorful and hearty.  My only adaptation to the recipe was to reduce the amount of beef stock.  I have a pretty large Dutch Oven, but the original recipe called for 84 ounces (more than 10 cups) of beef stock.  I think I used about 6 cups of beef stock.  This made the soup a bit thicker, but I prefer heartier to too-thin broth.  Eyeball it.  If it looks too thick, add more stock.

Enjoy!

Lentil Soup with Beef

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 6 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 cups (about 11 ounces) lentils, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (optional)

Preparation:

Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.  Add half of the beef and cook until brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef.

Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, and oregano to the pot. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Return the beef and any accumulated juices from the bowl to the pot.

Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add the lentils. Cover and continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season the soup, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

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soupe au pistou

I’m a huge fan of soup.  Honestly, I’d make soup a few times a week if I could get away with it; big, hearty soups packing great punches of flavor, served with steamy, crusty bread, and good wine!  But I can’t get away with it.  So, I appease myself with once every couple of weeks.  With the weather warming up, I’ll probably start to cut that back even further and just start a mental countdown to November…or, December.

This particular soup caught my eye because, while it’s technically a vegetable/minestrone soup (albeit French), it seemed really hearty; lots of veggies, some pasta, and beans.  So, I whipped it together (not quite that fast), sampling as I went along.  Every time I sampled it, I thought, “Bland, bland, bland.”  I was really, really disappointed.  So when I ladled it out, I did so with a caveat: This isn’t my best effort.  It was truly garden-variety average.

And then I added the pesto (pistou), grated in some cheese, and the whole soup changed.  It went from ho-hum and mundane to Ooh La La in a twirl of the spoon.  Wow!  Delicious!  Bold!  Hearty!  All those things I was hoping this soup would be.  The pesto and cheese is really the crowning glory.

The recipe below is a variation of one I found at Epicurious.  I’d looked at any number of recipes (101 Cookbooks, David Leibovitz, Ina Garten, etc)., and they’re all remarkably similar with only subtle, cook-inspired differences.  Most, if not all, call for using water instead of chicken stock.  Hence, the really bland flavor in my first attempt.  This time I used chicken stock which, arguably, means it’s not authentic Soupe au Pistou, but tough et vous!  I like it better with stock!  I think you will, too. Enjoy!

 

Soupe au Pistou

Ingredients:

  • 1 celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 large thyme sprig
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dried cannelloni beans, rinsed and soaked
  • 1/2 pound Swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2-inch pieces and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 8 cups water or low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup thawed frozen edamame (fresh soybeans)
  • 1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup medium pasta shells

Directions:

  1. Cook celery, carrot, garlic, and thyme sprig in oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 5-to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables brown and stick to bottom of pot, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes and chard stems with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits.
  3. Stir in edamame, zucchini, green beans, pasta, chard leaves, and 1/4 tsp salt and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is al dente and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard thyme sprig.
  4. Divide among four bowls and top with the pistou.

Pistou:

  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

Put the garlic and tomato in a blender or food processor with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Begin processing. With the machine running, add the basil leaves, and then pour in enough extra-virgin olive oil to make a smooth, thick, but fluid paste. Transfer about 2/3 of the paste into a serving bowl to pass alongside the soup.