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When I was young and going out on my own, my mother advised me to always have certain ingredients in my pantry and fridge. “Even when you don’t have two nickels to rub together, you will still have something that is hearty, healthy, and soulful,” she would say. Since then, nearly 25 years ago, I have always had onion, celery, carrot, and lentils in my pantry.

Now that I am older and wiser, I now make what I call “Soul Soup” nearly weekly, but I tweak it each time, so that it’s a little different. I serve with some kind of bread on the side. I like that it’s more of a stew than a soup, chunky and hardy. It will keep in the fridge and after a long and taxing weekday, it settles in the stomach and readies you for a good sleep. Here is my basic recipe. Sometimes, I add a little curry, use red instead of green lentils, add bacon or sausage, fresh herbs, pesto, chiles, chimichurri, cold cucumber for garnish. I invite you to create your own soul soup, to feed your friends, family, or aging parents. It costs next to nothing to make, but the heart that makes is what gives it soul.

Soul Soup

1 onion, diced

2 stems celery, diced

1 large or 2 small carrots, diced

1- 14 oz. can tomatoes (I like fire-roasted)

1 cup red or green lentils

8 cups stock (chicken/beef/veggie stock or water)

olive oil

Optional: bacon, sausage, herbs, garlic, bay leaf, old rind of parmesan cheese, squashes of all types, pesto, and/or anything else you think would be good.

In a big soup pot (dutch oven), heat pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil, diced onion, carrot, and celery. Cook until onion is soft and transparent 10-12 minutes. Add can of tomatoes and turn up heat to high. Add the lentils and liquid (stock or water). Stir well. Bring to a near boil (surface of soup starts to agitate), then turn to medium-low. Cover. If using red lentils, cook for about 20 minutes. If using green lentils, cook for about 30 minutes (then check as may need a little more time). Green lentils should be whole, but soft to the tooth. Red lentils tend to fall apart, since they are smaller and will therefore render a thicker soup.

Let me know how you make out. Add this to your weekly regime. Your family will love it. It’s a great way to get good veggies into your kids if they are hard to please. Your stomach and soul will thank you.

Mangia!

Photo courtesy of epicurious.com, my favorite site for food knowledge-base, menus, and recipes.

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