Lentil and Wild Rice Soup

Lentil and Wild Rice SoupIt’s been a bit breezy here where I live lately, and that kind of weather always puts me in the mood for a big bowl of soup. I also have a pantry full of staples that’s been getting a little out of control. This soup put a good dent in my lentil, dry spice and seed stash, and it was tasty to boot. I served this with some homemade whole wheat biscuits and an arugula salad tossed with toasted hazelnuts and a fig balsamic vinaigrette.

Active prep: 10 minutes
Cooking time: under an hour
Attention needed: Occasional

1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced (include the leaves if you like them)
1 large white or yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced  (2 tsp if using crushed)
4 c vegetable broth + 4 cups water (or 8 cups water + 2 bouillon cubes), warmed
1 1/2 c brown or green lentils, sorted and rinsed
1/2 c wild rice, rinsed
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or half a 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes; about 1 cup)
1 tsp dried marjoram (or 1 tbsp leaves if using fresh)
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 fat sprig/2 small sprigs of fresh thyme, tossed in with stem)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste
Juice from one half of a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil for finishing (optional)

Note: this batch of soup fits perfectly at all stages of cooking in my 4 quart soup pot, which is 8 inches in diameter and 7 inches tall)

Rinse and sort lentils and wild rice and set aside.

Sauté carrots, celery, and onion in olive oil over mediumheat for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions and celery are translucent and beginning to get very lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic and stir for an additional minute.

Add the 8 cups of warmed water/stock, stirring enough to loosen any tasty bits on the bottom of the pot. Add lentils, wild rice, tomatoes, marjoram (if dried), thyme, bay leaves, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and cover with the lid slightly ajar. Let the soup cook gently for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender and the the wild rice has popped open.

If you’re using fresh marjoram, add it to the soup about 30 minutes into the cooking time.

You may need to add more liquid as the cook progresses, depending on the type of lentils you use, the rate of evaporation, and how thin you like your soup. I usually end up adding 2 additional cups of liquid. If you like your soups closer to the consistency of a side dish of lentils, 8 cups may be plenty. You may even prefer 7. 6 cups is about the minimum, in my opinion.

When the soup is finished cooking, add salt and black pepper to taste and the lemon juice. Remove the bay leaves (and fresh thyme sprigs if using), and finish the soup by stirring in an additional tablespoon of olive oil if you wish. Let the soup rest with the lid on for a few minutes, then serve.

Legume-based soups seem to drink up broth during fridge storage, so you’ll probably need to reheat any leftovers with a little additional water.

Weekend pizza night

I love pizza. I’ve loved it as an omnivore, a vegetarian, as well as now as a vegan. For many, it’s all about the cheese. Even when I ate dairy cheese, it was always the crust that sold me. I’m particular about a crust with a good flavor and texture, but not so much about the style; I love a hand-tossed pizza just as well as I love a deep-dish pie with that delectable biscuit-like but yeast-raised crust.

When I’m making pizza at home, I rely on 00 flour, a slow rise, the smallest amount of yeast I need, and a really hot oven to maximize flavor. This is especially important when making a Neapolitan-style lean crust without oil or sugar in the dough. Sometimes I mix this kind of dough up the evening before and let it ferment slowly in the refrigerator. If it’s cool in the house, I’ll mix it up in the morning and cut back the yeast to slow things down and leave it to rise for several hours on the counter. You can even freeze the leftovers, though how anyone has pizza dough leftovers when there are garlic knots to be made eaten is simply beyond me.

This past weekend’s pizza was a different kind of treat though. I don’t usually have Chicago-style pizza that often anymore, but I had a craving for that lovely crust with that simple layer of seasoned tomatoes that cook down into a chunky sauce right on top of everything.

deep dish pizza

Pizza! Homemade vegan mozzarella, seasoned TVP, onions, fresh garlic, black olives, more vegan mozzarella, seasoned smashed tomatoes, and a dusting of vegan parmesan.

This pizza dough is quite different from the lean ones I usually make. It’s a short crust, more biscuit-like than bready, but leavened with yeast instead of baking powder. In addition to flour, yeast, salt, and water, this type of crust needs a little sugar and a lot of oil. I used 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) oil to 2 cups of flour, but I’ve seen suggestions of 3 tbsp per cup for the proper texture. Mine tasted pretty rich at the proportions I used, but if you’re feeling decadent, give it a go sometime.

The oil inhibits gluten development in the crust much like shortening or margarine in a biscuit. It also increases the rise time. I think I ended up fermenting this dough for five or six hours. These pies also take longer to cook than thin pizzas (about 30-35 minutes at 450° F/230° C for two pies in 8-inch cast iron skillets), but you have plenty of time for a beer while you wait.