We’re having a very subdued Thanksgiving this year, as are, I’m sure, nearly all of you. Except for those 1 million travelers yesterday that went through TSA at airports nationwide. Who are they? Where are they going? My heart wants to ask for an invite to their party, my head wants to know who they are so I can stay the heck away. And the little mean, mean man who lives in my gut this year wants to growl, “Come on now. We’ve made it SO FAR. Just stay the hell home for a few more months.”
The mean man is right this time, and we’re staying the hell home and making dinner for two which will, I am confident, be enough food for six. Stay tuned for more “Creative leftover upgrades” posts.
Since most of this week I’ll be eating challah, no knead bread, mashed potatoes, gallons of gravy, and three pies (because who can pick the one crucial Thanksgiving pie? I thought for sure it was pumpkin, but my husband insists it’s pecan, which we only ever have on Thanksgiving also. So I was going to make two. But then we both thought, what’s a Black Friday breakfast without cold apple pie leftovers? So…), I generally try to cook fast and light the first part of the week.
Which is why I made my favorite vegetable lentil soup for dinner last night. You just cringed when you read, “lentil,” right? I know. I get it. I sort of do, too. Matt always does. Any time I propose lentil soup, it’s fun to watch the facial gymnastics Matt performs. He tries so hard to keep his face neutral, but the grimace and slight shudder of disgust always comes through.
But don’t be disgusted by lentils. Blend them.
A colleague of mine introduced me to this idea almost a decade ago. I can still taste the delicious creaminess of her tomato lentil soup. I thought it was the most brilliant thing I’d ever eaten, and at 23 years old, hungry and exhausted working the week between Christmas and New Years on Capitol Hill, it was definitely the most thoughtfully prepared meal I’d had in recent memory. She brought it in again later and admitted she blended it because her husband hates lentils.
And an idea was born. Make any type of soup you think sounds good, add in the questionable things you love but aren’t universally loved, toss in blender, and remove a creamy, frothy, decidedly upscale version of the soup you thought you’d serve.
I do this with my slow cooker black bean soup, too. That recipe is so easy it hardly merits a post, but I’ll share it before the weather gets really cold.
Ladies and gentlemen, get out your blenders and start making soup with uncool vegetables and grains! Ah, what a world it would be if we could just blend all the things we didn’t like and voila, have something elevated and so much better.
- 1 onion, diced*
- 3-4 carrots, diced (or one cup of diced baby carrots that you always have in the fridge but never seem to eat)*
- 3-4 sticks celery, diced*
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 1 pound red lentils (any type will work, but the color of your soup might not be as nice)
- 32 ounces broth of your choice
- 1.5 pounds chicken, diced into 1 inch chunks
- Dried garlic, salt and pepper for flavoring
- Sauté your mirepoix (the onion, carrots and celery) in a glug of olive oil with salt, pepper and garlic until it just starts to soften.
- Add in your dry lentils and cook for 2-3 minutes, coating the lentils really well in all the good flavor of your mirepoix, oil and spices.
- Pour in the crushed tomatoes and stir again.
- Add in the broth. If it looks really thick (peanut butter thick is bad, smoothie-you-can’t-drink-with-a-straw is good), add one or two cups of water or more broth.
- Add in diced chicken, cover and cook on medium low for 15-20 minutes.
- Test to see if the chicken is cooked through. While you’re doing that, test the soup. Does it need more salt? More pepper? Add in the good stuff now to make it taste great.
- If the chicken is cooked through, scoop everything but the chicken into your blender. I suppose you could blend the chicken chunks, but that sounds unpleasant. You could also have cooked your chicken in a separate pan, but that sounds like another pan to clean. So I suggest you annoyingly scoop around the chicken and get as much of the liquid soup into your blender as possible.
- Blend the soup until totally smooth and frothy, add back into the pot and stir again. At this point you will still have a few visible lentils and maybe even some visible vegetables. I think this is nice, because it helps people to know they’re not eating baby food. If you have a very picky eater, just blend it all again and scoop around the chicken more carefully.
- Serve with really, really good bread and parmesan cheese.
*Note: Last night is the first time in my life I bought pre-chopped mirepoix at Trader Joe’s and it was awesome.
Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.