Not Too Soon for Soup

Minestrone

I once met the beat poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti . Well, meet is too strong a word. I was in San Francisco when I saw him in the window of a McDonalds, I rushed in, told him I thought he was a great poet, left before he even swallowed his bite of burger. I thought of Felinghetti today because it’s autumn and the trees in my yard, the quaking aspen and the sugar maple, are changing color. His line “too soon, too soon” (in the famous poem The Penny Candy Store Beyond the El) laments the changing of the season and end of youth.

Lamenting. That’s how I feel closing the back door to the porch and calling to get the furnace checked. No matter how beautiful the autumn colors, it always seems too soon to welcome the beginning of winter.

Fact is, I hate the cold. Hate having to get out the boots and mittens and scarves and down coats. The last winter in Iowa practically did us all in. Too many below-zero days in a row without a break, too much ice and snow without a thaw.

What’s good about winter? Maybe a cozy fire, a reason to go back to bed for a nap in the middle of the day, an excuse not to go to work because the roads are too bad.

But the best thing about winter is soup. More specifically, my husband’s heart-and-soul-warming Rista, a most delicious and nutritious Lebanese soup. This recipe serves six, but I’d make more because it freezes well.

Rishta Soup (Traditionally served on the occasion of the baby's first tooth, or at the beginning of a journey)

Ingredients:

4 cups water + 4 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth

            ½ tsp salt

            ¼ tsp pepper

            1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained

            ¼ cup olive oil

            2 medium onions, chopped

            4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

            ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

            1 cup coarse chopped Swiss chard (optional)

            ½ cup vermicelli, broken into small pieces

            1 lemon, cut into wedges

1. In a pot, bring the water/broth, salt, pepper and lentils to a boil, then cook about 30 minutes over medium heat.

2. Meanwhile, place oil and onions in a frying pan and saute over medium heat until onions are slightly brown.  Add the garlic, then a minute later add the cilantro and Swiss chard and stir fry for 2-3 minute.

3. Add contents of fry pan to lentils; stir in the vermicelli and bring to a boil.

4. Lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

5. Serve with lemon wedge, to be fresh squeezed over each bowl.

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