I had some girlfriends over last night for lentil soup and red wine. Is there anything more delicious than a hearty soup on a crisp, fall evening? The answer is no. Being a vegetarian, I eat a lot of lentils during the fall and winter months. They are a great source of protein, fiber and vitamin B, yes please. I buy mine pre-cooked at Trader Joe’s, makes it so easy to throw in a soup or heat up with a little stock, onion and garlic alongside mashed potatoes or broccoli rabe.
So, let me tell you about my trip to Trader Joe’s the other night. This may not be entertaining or interesting to any of you, but my fingernail still hurts while typing this post, so it must be told. As you all know, Allen and I have been living together since Friday, August 16th, so a couple months in a couple weeks. In that time, I have not gone grocery shopping, whatever, right? I get my produce box every week, I’m a vegetarian, I still make dinners for Allen, but somehow I get blamed for eating all the Triscuits, string cheese, chips, salsa, hummus and tortillas (the only things Allen knows how to shop for). So I decide that instead of a quick trip to TJs for my dinner essentials, I’m going to go all out and buy anything and everything that looks good and / or something I question we may need, it’s a yes, no holding back. I was stopped multiple times in the 45 minutes I was in the store being asked, “Where’s the party at?”, “Having a party?”, “Food for 50?” Jesus people, can’t a girl just fill her cart up and not get harassed? I could have four children at home I need to feed (thank god I don’t), you don’t know.
I finally finished my shopping and was at the check-out getting ready to pay. If you shop at Trader Joe’s you may already know that they don’t always staff people to help you bag your groceries, so being the respectable customer and experienced bagger I am, I started bagging my groceries. Big mistake. It was like the fear of getting another comment about the size of my grocery load had me bagging too quickly for my own good, and I slammed my finger into the side of the check stand jamming a rather large, thick piece of wood splinter under my nail bed. If you don’t know what it feels like to have something jammed under your nail, you are lucky, and I hate you. I left with a very bloody finger, another comment about why I was getting myself hurt and a couple hundred dollars short.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound lentils (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
11 cups low-salt vegetable broth
4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs
2/3 cup dried elbow pasta
1 cup shredded Parmesan
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the broth and stir. Add the thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.