Tanya Tandoc: Bright Lights and Lentils
This spring is abundantly green and lush. My gardening friends are watching their crops of spinach, lettuce, and chard go crazy.
I love this time of year, when all the beautiful greens I adore are really delicious and tender. I'm delighted, because I get to cook with all of these wonderful ingredients.
My chef Kelly is coming up with some amazing recipes to highlight the bounty of the season.
One of my favorite ways to use chard is in lentil soup. Chard is a robust leafy green, that comes in a few varieties. One is Swiss, with bright red stems, and another (my favorite) is Bright Lights, with neon-colored stems in pink, orange, yellow, and lime.
Lentils are a staple food in my pantry, and the recipe I'm going to share with you is good with any green, be it chard, spinach, or kale. This soup is flexible and very adaptable, and can be made completely vegetarian, or with bacon added if you like, or absolutely vegan and gluten free.
First, start with a few tablespoons of olive oil in a big soup pot. Heat it on medium high. Add a chopped onion, a few stalks of chopped celery, and a peeled, diced carrot. Cook, stirring, until the onion is transparent. Add a clove or three of chopped garlic. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of cleaned lentils and 8 cups of vegetable stock. Bring it all to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Cook until the lentils are very tender, about 25 minutes. Add one tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme or rosemary. Stir in 1 bunch of chopped fresh chard, spinach, or kale (about 8 cups, once chopped), stems included. Simmer for 10 minutes longer, until greens are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Voila!
I like to serve this with crumbled feta cheese on top. Crusty toast and a pretty salad makes it a good all-season meal.