On Friday evening last week a man came into my apartment with a fancy bottle of wine. He told me it was for my birthday, which was strange because my birthday is actually not until Saturday – as in three days from now. This man took me for a walk down the street to pick out some fancy cheese to go with the fancy wine. We went back to the apartment and enjoyed the wine and cheese together, and then he made us some sandwiches for dinner – and let me tell you, that man makes a mighty fine sandwich.
On Saturday I bundled up and headed out into the beautiful cold day, first to Swedish class, and then to work. It was past 7pm when I got home, and as I walked up the stairs to the apartment I could smell something insanely delicious, and I knew that man was still at it. I walked in the door and was presented with a three course dinner made from one of our favourite cookbooks. A super special surprise birthday dinner a full week before my birthday. I tell ya, it knocked my socks off. The whole weekend did.
It can be so easy to forget to slow down and take care of each other, and that this man, who likes to do everything fast, took the time to do this really meant a lot to me. It was a very simple, sweet, and unexpected way to spend the weekend, and the memory of it will stay with me and will carry me through inevitable tougher times.
Of course life goes back to the usual routines, and one of ours is soup on Sundays. This is something that I make often – a ruddy tomato lentil soup with a healthy dose of greens. I switch up the ingredients a bit depending on the season, and right now it is canned tomatoes and frozen spinach which are offering the most flavour and the fewest food miles. In the summer months I might use Swiss chard or fresh spinach in great big handfuls, and, when I can find it, I’ll use shredded kale.
This soup is great on its own, and I’m also quite fond of it with a bit of brown rice or barley, as is pictured here. It packs a good nutritional punch flying solo, but you can add a poached egg for extra protein if you like. Like most soups, this one freezes really well and is great to have on hand for busy times.
Tomato Spinach Lentil Soup Recipe:
The thing about frozen spinach where I live is that it comes in a big bag of little cubes (which are really convenient if you just want a bit of frozen spinach – I throw a handful into my smoothie most mornings), so I just tossed them in and let them thaw in the heat of the soup. If your frozen spinach comes in a big brick you may want to thaw it a bit first, but in either case don’t bother squeezing the liquid out. The spinach water is a nice addition to the broth.
2 cups small green or beluga lentils, checked over for stones and rinsed well
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cans (395g each) of diced tomatoes, including juices
4 cups vegetable broth
250g frozen spinach, unthawed
salt and pepper
Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Salt it well and add the lentils. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for around 20 minutes. The lentils should be just barely tender, even a little under cooked since they will finish in the soup. When they are at that point drain them and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil, then the onion. Sauté the onion until it is starting to become golden, then add the garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes more until the garlic begins to brown as well. Now add the canned tomatoes with their juices, the vegetable broth, and the frozen* spinach. Give everything a good stir and allow the soup to come to a simmer and the spinach to thaw – about 5 minutes. Stir in the lentils now, and decide whether your soup may need a bit more liquid; it will thicken slightly as it sits. Taste and decide whether you need a bit of salt and pepper, and season as you like. Let the soup meld together for a few minutes more, then you’re ready to serve.
Serve hot in bowls with a bit of barley or brown rice. I think a drizzle of yoghurt is nice, and Paul likes a scoop of cottage cheese with his.
*If you’re using fresh greens rather than frozen, stir them in at the very end of the cooking time.
Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse. They are a great source of dietary fiber,manganese, iron, and protein.
Spinach is an excellent source vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, and calcium (good for your bones), folate, potassium, and vitamin B6 (good for your heart), iron, vitamin B2, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. And, spinach is a great source of dietary fiber.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013