The hurricane here wasn't so bad, but the weather has been gray, gray, gray. I needed a bowl of something warm and comforting, and made one of my favorites -- sausage lentil soup.
Mom made lentil soup frequently, but always used a ham broth -- almost like a split pea soup. An excellent way to do it, but I've always preferred this style, which I've seen in Greek diners (do you notice a trend here??).
There's much variation that can be made -- you could double the tomato, and reduce the amount of stock, you could add some tomato paste while the veggies are sauteing to increase the intensity and color of the tomato, you could omit the tomato altogether, and just go with stock. You could make it completely vegetarian by using veggie sausage (I don't' recommend it, but it does exist), or nothing at all, and just eliminate it. Herbs and spices can be changed up -- add some smoked paprika, or a couple chopped sage leaves, or one favorite of mine -- add chopped fennel along with the onion, celery, and carrot.
1 lb Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
3 small onions, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups lentils, washed and picked over
1 28-oz can whole or crushed tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dry thyme, or several sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Brown the sausage in a Dutch oven, then remove and set aside. Add oil to the pot.
Add onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and sauté over moderate heat until softened.
Add lentils, tomatoes, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and add back the cooked sausage.
Bring to a simmer, cover, and let simmer over moderate heat for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
Serve with grated parmigiano or pecorino cheese.
As with any soup of this kind, it's much better the next day!