02.02.09: boom boom boom boom, i want a bowl of soup

my second high school food service job - the one for which i had to buy polyester khakis and wear a baseball hat, not the one for which i had to rent a tie covered with tropical fruit - was at a heart-healthy fast food restaurant. i think it closed within a few months of my leaving for college, both because it occupied the strip mall's mysterious Storefront of Death and because it was neither as speedy nor as cheap as honest-to-goodness fast food.* it was around long enough for me to become obsessed with a few standout dishes, though; i haven't cracked the low fat, mega-addictive oatmeal cookie code, but i've figured out how to approximate the weirdly satisfying cup of lentils (to which, in a fit of boredom, i added parmesan and salsa), which goes something like this.

1/2 pound dry lentils
~2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small-medium potato, peeled and chopped (optional; if you decide to throw this in, wait until the other veggies have already simmered for a while)
1-2 c vegetable broth
bay leaf
salt and pepper
rough-grated parmesan cheese (not huge like a cheddar, but not too finely grated - powdery is too far)
shredded carrot
hot salsa (high acidity and chunky tomatoes are good; extra-spicy pico de gallo is perfect)

prepare the dry lentils according to package instructions (i didn't feel like soaking mine ovenight, so i believe i combined them with three cups of hot water, boiled them for a bit, and then drained them), then set aside. add the olive oil to a small-medium stock pot, then soften the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery over medium heat for a few minutes. add the lentils, enough vegetable broth to cover them, and the bay leaf; bring the mixture to a simmer and leave it uncovered to reduce for about fifteen minutes. you're basically making a brothless lentil stew; at the start of your simmer, add a few wintery, comparatively innocuous herbs and spices if you like (i tossed in some penzeys mural of flavor, a salt substitute - that link includes an ingredient list). once the broth has pretty much left town, remove and discard the bay leaf, season with some salt and pepper, and you're done. ladle into a small bowl, then add a sprinkle of parmesan, a handful of shredded carrot, and a robust spoonful of salsa. i have no idea why earthy stew + shredded parm + raw, snappy carrot + salsa equals BIG MAGIC, but this is one of my favorite dishes of all time. it's cheap, tasty, and crazy-healthy, especially if you go easy on the cheese and leave out the potato (i do neither, and it still makes me feel like hiking). so there you are, internets! if you super bowled yesterday, you can lentil it away now.

how did you sunday, and how are you mondaying? have you soup for me?

*unsurprisingly, the chain is still flourishing in san diego, land of all things posh, expensive, and slow.

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