Starting soup season: Lentil, rapini & sausage soup

As the chilly crispness of autumn settles in my bones, it becomes obvious that all I want is a hearty bowl of broth.

I don’t know why the brilliance of soup comes to me as a sneaky surprise every October. It’s possible that the summer weather is just so stiflingly hot that I feel as though I’ll never need to eat warm food again. But when the fall does come, eating that first bowl of seasonal soup comes with some sort of strange high – it fills me up, recharges me, and brings me to a place I didn’t know was possible. What’s good about soup, though, is that the high never falls. Every time I slurp, spoon, and sip, it’s better than before, and filled with new flavours and innovative ways to use up a crisper full of half-eaten vegetables. I think that’s why I love soup and pizza so much – they’re both foods that provide the base for what is really an empty canvas. Want to throw in carrots and kale? Have some garlic white sauce you need to use up? Toss ‘er in. Soup and pizza are leftover enablers.

I kicked off the 2012 soup season with a big bowl of this lentil, rapini and sausage soup. While the Chatelaine recipe originally called for kale, I was unable to locate any in Sudbury. Apparently word of how awesome it is has finally caught on.

A whole pile of rapini. I love adding leafy greens to soups, stir fry, and sauces, because it’s fun to watch it shrink down into almost nothing at all.

When at the Farmer’s Market searching for kale, I also picked up a basket of jewel-coloured heirloom carrots. They were absolutely beautiful. I apprehensively took a bite of the beet-coloured carrot, expecting to have flavours of raspberry wine explode in my mouth.

Since I’m also big on side bread, I made a batch of sweet potato biscuits to accompany the soup. They were lovely and soft and unique. Thanks to Emily for posting the Instagram photo that inspired these!

What soup shall I scald my tongue on next? Wait and see.

Recipe: Lentil, rapini and sausage soup
Adapted slightly from Chatelaine
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 2 Italian sausages
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 1 stalk celery, finely diced
– 3 carrots, diced
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 156 mL can tomato paste
– 1 tsp ground corander
– 1 tsp salt
– 6 cups chopped rapini
– 540 mL can lentils, rinsed and drained
– Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large, wide saucepan over medium.

Add oil, then sausages. Turn sausages occasionally until they lose their pink colour, 4 to 6 min. Remove to a plate and tent with aluminum foil.

Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic to pan. Cook until onion starts to soften, about 3 min.

Meanwhile, thinly slice sausages.

Stir in tomato paste, coriander, salt, sausages and any juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until flavour develops, 5 more min. Pour in 4 cups water. Bring to a boil.

Stir in rapini and reduce heat to medium. Cover and gently boil, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 5 to 7 min. Stir in lentils. If soup is too thick, stir in more water. Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with parmesan. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe: Sweet potato biscuits
Adapted from Martha Stewart and Emily
– 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, cooked and finely mashed
– 1/3 cup milk
– 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
– 2 tbsp brown sugar
– 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Cook the peeled sweet potato in a pot of simmering water until it is soft and able to be pierced by a fork. Mash with the milk. This is now your sweet potato puree.

Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some pea-sized lumps of butter remaining. Mix in the sweet potato puree, being careful not to over mix.

Shape the biscuits: Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead very gently until dough comes together but is still slightly lumpy, five or six times. (If dough is too sticky, work in up to 1/4 cup additional flour.) Shape into a disk, and pat to an even 1-inch thickness. With a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits as close together as possible. Gather together scraps, and repeat to cut out more biscuits (do not reuse scraps more than once).

Bake the biscuits: Preheat oven to 425 degrees, with rack on lower shelf. Bake on a greased baking sheet until golden, about 20 minutes.

Makes about 8 biscuits.

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