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Serves 6 as a main course

Lentil soup is a staple in my household, typically made with oddments in the fridge: half an onion left from a recipe that called for the other half, rutabaga that didn't fit into the tray of roasted vegetables, leeks that looked too nice in the market to pass up, a few stray slices of bacon, an end of prosciutto I found in a basket at the deli counter while I was waiting for my order (think of it as an impulse-buy). I make a pot from the moment the leaves start to change till we turn off the heat many months later. I've made vegetarian versions for friends, but they're not as satisfying as the pots simmered with a ham bone, fresh or dried sausage (like the turkey kielbasa here), or, at the very least, chicken stock. Sweat some root vegetables first for at least 10 minutes to draw out all their flavor. Tomatoes add sweetness to the pot, crushed red pepper lends heat, mushrooms give their earthy taste, and white beans offer another texture in the mix. A few sprigs of fresh thyme simmered in the broth will drop their leaves by the end of cooking to add flavor, and finally, a lot of chopped fresh parsley tossed in at the end brightens the pot. Serve it as a main course. It will fill the belly but hardly make a dent in the weekly food budget.

2tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, thickly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper, to taste
8 ounces turkey kielbasa, thinly sliced
8 ounces button mushrooms, halved if large and thinly sliced
1 can (15 ounces) chopped tomatoes
½teaspoon crushed red pepper
2cups Le Puy or other green or brown lentils
1quart chicken stock
1quart water
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 can (16 ounces) cannellini or navy beans, drained
¼cup chopped fresh parsley
Extra fresh thyme leaves, chopped (for garnish)

1. In a soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery, salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.

2. Add the kielbasa and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes, Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms release their liquid.

3. Add the tomatoes and red pepper. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the lentils and stir well for 1 minute, or until they are coated all over with the tomato mixture. Pour in the stock and water. Add the thyme sprigs.

4. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and set on the cover askew. Simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Add the white beans and continue simmering for 10 minutes, or until the lentils are very tender. Add more water to the pot during cooking if the mixture seems too thick. (Total simmering time is 55 minutes.)

5. Remove the thyme sprigs from the pot. Stir in the parsley. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt or red pepper, if you like. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with thyme leaves.

Sheryl Julian

Serves 6 as a main course

Lentil soup is a staple in my household, typically made with oddments in the fridge: half an onion left from a recipe that called for the other half, rutabaga that didn't fit into the tray of roasted vegetables, leeks that looked too nice in the market to pass up, a few stray slices of bacon, an end of prosciutto I found in a basket at the deli counter while I was waiting for my order (think of it as an impulse-buy). I make a pot from the moment the leaves start to change till we turn off the heat many months later. I've made vegetarian versions for friends, but they're not as satisfying as the pots simmered with a ham bone, fresh or dried sausage (like the turkey kielbasa here), or, at the very least, chicken stock. Sweat some root vegetables first for at least 10 minutes to draw out all their flavor. Tomatoes add sweetness to the pot, crushed red pepper lends heat, mushrooms give their earthy taste, and white beans offer another texture in the mix. A few sprigs of fresh thyme simmered in the broth will drop their leaves by the end of cooking to add flavor, and finally, a lot of chopped fresh parsley tossed in at the end brightens the pot. Serve it as a main course. It will fill the belly but hardly make a dent in the weekly food budget.

2tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, thickly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper, to taste
8 ounces turkey kielbasa, thinly sliced
8 ounces button mushrooms, halved if large and thinly sliced
1 can (15 ounces) chopped tomatoes
½teaspoon crushed red pepper
2cups Le Puy or other green or brown lentils
1quart chicken stock
1quart water
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 can (16 ounces) cannellini or navy beans, drained
¼cup chopped fresh parsley
Extra fresh thyme leaves, chopped (for garnish)

1. In a soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery, salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.

2. Add the kielbasa and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes, Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms release their liquid.

3. Add the tomatoes and red pepper. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the lentils and stir well for 1 minute, or until they are coated all over with the tomato mixture. Pour in the stock and water. Add the thyme sprigs.

4. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and set on the cover askew. Simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Add the white beans and continue simmering for 10 minutes, or until the lentils are very tender. Add more water to the pot during cooking if the mixture seems too thick. (Total simmering time is 55 minutes.)

5. Remove the thyme sprigs from the pot. Stir in the parsley. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt or red pepper, if you like. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with thyme leaves.Sheryl Julian


Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.