Farm Lunch Minestrone

Photo by Tim Wilcox

Photo by Tim Wilcox

Serves 4–6 hungry farmers as a main meal.

11:00 Put ½ pound brown lentils in a small pot and cover with 2 inches water. Add 1½ teaspoons salt and 2–3 bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.

11:05 Heat a large pot of water for pasta.

11:10 Make a battuto: Finely dice 1 medium onion, 1 carrot, 4 cloves of garlic, and 1 stalk of celery (if you’ve got it) or some parsley. Sauté gently in a capacious skillet in olive oil over medium heat. (If you’re not serving vegetarians, add 2 ounces of diced bacon or uncased sweet Italian sausage to this mixture.)

11:30 When everything is nice and rosy, add 1 can of San Marzano tomatoes or 1 quart of homemade tomato preserves. By this point, your pasta water should be boiling, so you might as well salt it (2 tablespoons) and get the pasta cooking. I like to use ditalini or other small shapes. Don’t forget to check on the lentils to make sure they are actually cooking and have plenty of water.

11:35 Wash 2 bunches of Tuscan kale or another green. Kale, chard, or spinach work equally well, but not broccoli rabe or mustard greens. Strip out the tough center rib and coarsely chop the kale. Add it to the tomato sauce, but don’t overcook the pasta, which should be done by now. Strain it into a colander when it’s al dente, then return to the pot you cooked it in and drizzle with a little oil (2–3 tablespoons) to keep pasta from sticking. 

11:50 By this point, the lentils should be most of the way there. Taste them to make sure. There should be several cups of rich broth left in the lentil pot. Add the lentils and broth to the tomatoes and check for flavor. It should taste salty. If it doesn’t, add salt.

11:55 Heat 1 stick of butter in a small saucepan and add 1 bunch of chopped fresh sage. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes to infuse. It’s OK if it browns a little, but don’t burn it. Meanwhile, set the table, make a pot of coffee, and get the parmesan out of the fridge. If you find any bread in the house, you can put that out, too.

11:59 Add the kale, lentil, and tomato mixture to the pasta in the pasta pot. Pour in the butter, taking care not to add the sage leaves. I find the sage itself to be quite bitter, but the aroma to be intoxicating. The mixture should be fairly brothy but not soupy. 

SPRING WILD HARVEST RAGOUT WITH FIDDLEHEADS, RAMPS, AND MORELS

Serves 6

½ pound fiddleheads, cleaned

½ pound “baby” pattypan squash, trimmed

4 wild leeks (ramps), cleaned

¾ cup shelled fresh peas

½ stick (¼ cup) butter

½ pound pearl onions, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, peeled, and trimmed

2 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

¼ pound fresh morels, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

2 tablespoons chiffonade fresh mint leaves

1 large garlic clove, minced

Boil the fiddleheads in salted water for 2 minutes, or until they are crisp-tender. Drain and plunge in ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, drain them into a colander. Repeat the process of boiling and cooling with the squash and the ramps. Boil the peas for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are just tender, and drain. In a heavy skillet, combine 2 tablespoons of the butter, the onions, thyme, and bay leaf, and sauté the mixture for 2 minutes. Add the morels and cook until they are tender. Add the fiddleheads, squash, and ramps and cook for 1 minute (just to reheat the vegetables). Add the peas, parsley, mint, and garlic. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, stirring until the butter is just melted. Discard the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Hearty Lentil Soup

Just about any dark, leafy green works well in this soup—traditionally it’s made with Swiss chard—but I’ve found that collards provide just the right element of savory dimension to make it extra tasty. While the onions slowly cook and the beans are simmering, my girls often prep the greens, squeeze the lemons, and cut the potatoes for the finishing steps. Be sure not to overcook it. The lentils should maintain their shape, though the soup will thicken slightly as it begins to cool. Don’t be surprised if the next day’s bowl is even tastier than the first! 

¾ cup lentils
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
¼ teaspoon pepper
¾ teaspoons coriander
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ teaspoons flour
1 large bunch collards, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
1 large bunch cilantro, chopped
¾ pounds baby red potatoes, quartered
Juice of 1 lemon

Place the lentils, 1 teaspoon salt, and 6 cups water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add onions, remaining salt, pepper, and coriander. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are well-browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, then add the flour, collards, and cilantro, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens have wilted, about 2 minutes.

Stir the onion mixture into the pot with the lentils. Spoon a bit of broth from the soup into the emptied pan and use it to deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Add the mixture to the soup. 

Stir in potatoes and lemon juice and return the soup to a simmer. Continue to cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Adapted from Classic Lebanese Cuisine by Kamal Al-Faqi

Read the story behind the soup, Satisfaction by the Bowl. 

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