Lentil Soup Warm My Heart


I love soup.  Especially in winter, when the icy cold winds seem to penetrate my body & soul.  Enter the lentil, specifically the Lentil du Puy or the French green lentil.  I adore the earthy flavor of these legumes and how they hold their shape even after cooking for an extended period.  Combined with a few aromatic ingredients, this tiny bean makes a pot full of soup that provides lots of fiber and protein, together with fantastic flavor and texture.  I promise it will warm your heart too.


The process is simple, wash the lentils in a strainer and pay attention to be sure there is no foreign matter mixed in (I’ve found tiny, tiny stones on occasion).  Sauté aromatic vegetables and herbs of your choice in either oil or butter, I like to add lots of ground pepper but wait to add salt later as it can impede the cooking of the legume.  If you have it handy, splash a few tablespoons of sherry, red or white wine or white vermouth onto the sautéed vegetables.  Add the lentils, add stock or water to cover the contents of the solids in the pot by a couple of inches, a tablespoon of tomato paste and simmer uncovered for a couple of hours, stirring every so often.  Add more water if the soup seems way too thick.

This time, I used 2 ribs of celery, 3 carrots, 1/2 red onion, 1 plum tomato chopped, 1 shallot, 2 cloves of garlic and lots of fresh thyme.  After sautéing the vegetables and herbs, I splashed a few tablespoons of dry sherry into the pot (You can skip this step, but I like to build the flavor and I had it.  Red or white wine or vermouth would work too).  I used water as I was gifting soup to a friend who is vegetarian but I have also used chicken or beef broth in the past.  When the soup had cooked for a couple of hours, I added a box of chopped fresh white button mushrooms and a handful of chopped, soft, sun dried tomatoes that I had sautéed together first for about 10 minutes.

Sauté of aromatic vegetables and herbs

After simmering, taste for seasoning and serve.  If you like a more pureed texture, you can use a handheld blender to puree some or all of the soup.  Sometimes I will puree a bit of the soup but always like to leave a portion of the lentils whole, as I like the texture. If you like, you can add some water if the soup is too thick for your liking.

The soup is so much better when made the day before, if you can wait.  Try toasting a piece of good bread, rubbing it with a clove of garlic which has been peeled, and then drizzling extra virgin olive oil over it, then place the toast in the bottom of the bowl and ladle the hot soup on top.

Warm my heart, lentil soup.

Lentil Soup

Cranberry Blaahg

raw materials

raw materials

I’ve never been the type of person to suffer from any holiday blues, but this does not mean that I don’t appreciate that others do.
So of course, my answer to holiday depression is….(wait for it) food!
Cranberries, ruby red on the plate with their combination of sweet, tart, and bitter flavors can be transformed in so many ways.
I love the various consistencies ranging from gelatinous (hello, my daughter’s favorite canned variety which keeps it’s shape for life, with the ridges still visible even after removed from the can) to the smooth and silky yet still textural conserve version, which is my favorite.
I’ve been making this raspberry version of cranberry sauce for years – because I love raspberries and California raspberries, while not local, are pretty good in November combined and cooked with cranberries.  I’d be telling a lie if I didn’t say that I am hesitant to even share how simple this recipe is, because I’m pretty sure people think it’s a big deal to make. (Shhh).  Get over your holiday blues with my Cranberry Blaahg and recipe for fast, fresh, simple + delicious conserves.

Cranberry Raspberry Conserves 

  •  2 pints of fresh raspberries
  • 16 oz fresh cranberries (rinsed, picked, stems removed)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 TBS Chambord black raspberry liquor (optionally delish)

One of the beautiful things about this recipe is that there are only 5 ingredients + water.

 Combine everything together except the Chambord, in a large pot.  Be sure the pot is ample enough, as this mixture will bubble and foam up. Notice my smaller sized pot which bubbled over into a very sticky mess…don’t do this!
Cook on a medium high heat until everything starts to bubble and foam.
Bubbling cranberries and raspberries

Bubbling cranberries and raspberries

Reduce your heat to medium and stir.
When you start to hear the cranberries pop and everything starts to break down and looks saucy, you are done.  Add the Chambord now, if you choose to use it.
cooked and reduced berries, sugar and water

cooked and reduced berries, sugar and water

Because cranberries are naturally high in pectin, the conserves will be naturally jelled upon cooling.  Additionally, you will be happy to know that cranberries are an antioxidant and a super food.
Cool and refrigerate, conserves will keep for up to a week (if it lasts that long).  Excellent on cold meat sandwiches (turkey, pork, roast beef, chicken or ham – you choose) and as a condiment with cheeses.
Cranberry Raspberry Conserves

Cranberry Raspberry Conserves

Simmering Peppers in Syrup

Simmering Peppers in Syrup


My sister came for dinner bearing edible treats, a large package of beautiful Mariachi Peppers in bright orangey red.  They came from a farm via the Headhouse Farmers’ Market at Headhouse Square, which is the once a week outdoor market in our hood.  I immediately sliced one open to taste (love heat and hot peppers).  They were described to her as “not very spicy,” but I beg to differ.  My pepper slice definitely rated highly on the Scoville scale.

I stared at the bowl of colorful heat on the counter for several days, watching them start to shrivel, pondering which way I was going to prepare the peppers so that my family and I could continue to enjoy them.  My first idea was home made hot sauce, but I already had a jar of that lurking in the fridge.  And then it came to me – a sweet, savory and spicy vision; a condiment for cheese, sandwiches, soups and more.

I simply sliced the peppers into 1″ rings with their seeds (the seeds is where most of the heat resides and I like that), and then combined 2 cups of sugar with 1 cup of water, 1 tsp sea salt and about 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar in a medium sized pot.  I brought this simple syrup mixture to a simmer and cooked it for about 5 minutes to dissolve the sugar and slightly reduce the liquid.  I then added the peppers to the simmering syrup and cooked the mixture at a lively boil for about 10 minutes, until the peppers were softened and the mixture thickened.  The air in my kitchen was spicy and fragrant from the peppers and vinegar.

When the pepper mixture cooled, I transferred it to a glass Ball jar and marveled at the glossy, colorful contents.  The syrupy liquid is sweet, spicy and a bit tart from the vinegar.  I imagine drizzling it into my soups and using it to glaze grilled or roasted meats and vegetables. I even like the idea of sparingly adding it to some super chilled tequila and lime, in the style of my favorite current cocktail “Blue Heat” at Vernick.

The pepper slices are begging to find their way onto a cracker with some sharp cheese or even better yet, into a proper Italian Hoagie on a fresh, South Philly roll.

Thanks sister.

Candied, Pickled, Mariachi Peppers

Candied, Pickled, Mariachi Peppers