Lucky Lentil Soup
In many countries it's tradition to eat good-luck foods in the first few days of the new year or sometimes in the last few seconds of the old one. Spaniards stuff their mouths with grapes as the clock counts down the last twelve seconds. In the United States, Southerners eat collards and black-eyed peas because these foodstuffs symbolize money. My Hungarian heritage is not without its new year's food superstitions.
Hungarians celebrate by eating lentils and pork. We eat lentils because the little lentils resemble coins. And we eat pork since pigs root forward, making them a forward-looking bunch of animals. Chickens are not lucky since they scratch backward. So the custom of eating good-luck foods is all to gain prosperity for the new year. Believe me I'd eat all these foods all the time if it meant prosperity for the entire year! Wouldn't you!?
This New Year's Day I intend to enjoy the requisite lentil soup topped with a garnish of crispy pork sausage. I probably only eat lentil soup this one time during the year, but for that reason I love it even more. I make the same and very simple recipe each time.
For those of us who have begun the new year with a resolution to change our diets, this soup can easily fit into the new regimen as it's packed with protein and fiber. It's not only healthy and hearty, but it's also full of earthy flavor. Start the new year off right, with a big bowl of lucky lentil soup.
Lucky Lentil SoupNote: If you can't find Hungarian Gyulai pork sasuage, you can easily substitute it with pepperoni sausage.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 pound lentils, picked through and rinsed
10 cups vegetable stock or water
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces Gyulai pork sausage, thinly sliced and fried (for garnish)
Warm oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and celery; cook until almost browned, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, and continue to cook until the tomatoes are almost jam like, about 10 minutes. Add the lentils, stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Using an immersion blender, purée a third of the soup. Serve topped with fried slices of sausage and any of the sausage "oil" that has rendered. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.