Lentil Soup

It’s nearly winter and nothing really beats a good bowl of soup.  Lentil is one of my favorites.  You can add different vegetables or take out what you don’t like.  This recipe is great as is, but feel free to experiment. Omit the meat and use mushroom broth if you’d like a vegetarian option.

1/4 lb bacon
2 cups French green lentils or beluga lentils
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 quarts beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 can tomato paste
4 inch chunk of Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
Salt and pepper
1 to 1 1/2 diced ham
2 links hot or sweet Italian sausage, casing removed and browned (optional)
Fresh thyme for garnish

Sauté bacon until crispy. Remove from pan and reserve. Add carrots, onion, garlic, thyme and celery seed. Season with pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook a few minutes until onion begins to turn translucent and you can smell the garlic. Add balsamic vinegar and cook until vinegar is evaporated. Add lentils, beef broth, bay leaf, tomato paste, reserved bacon, ham and sausage.

Simmer for about 45 minutes until the lentils are tender. Remove cheese rind. Sprinkle some fresh thyme on each bowl, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and grated cheese.

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