It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!! Wohoo! I just love this holiday! Eight years ago after a rather loooong divorce, I was excited to start my very own little traditions. I needed some oomph, some pizazz, something sparkly to celebrate my freedom :-). And then my blue spruce outside my front door winked at me and my annual red Christmas tree was born. For a few years, I lovingly decorated that same tree with red lights each year. I would drag out my extension ladder, crank up the Christmas carols, make some hot chocolate (and occasionally add a bit of Peppermint Schnapps) and decorate my heart out – my ladder perched perilously on the little hill outside as I struggled to reach the top of the 15 foot tree.
And then my little friend grew and grew – until he became a 30 foot monster and I could no longer reach the top. My red tree has now migrated to the back of my house where each year I have a live Christmas tree delivered. And rather than bring the little tree inside, I leave my Christmas tree on the patio and drape it with its red lights outside my kitchen door. I then get to plant my little friend after the holiday and watch him grow. I now have 5 spruce trees on the property of varying heights and they make me smile whenever I see them winking back at me from their snug little spots.
And so the tradition continues. I spent yesterday decorating my little tree and made a pot of Italian sausage and lentil soup to warm up our toes after an afternoon outside. (And yes, I added schnapps to the hot chocolate this year. :-))
Bring on the holidays!!
Italian Sausage and Lentil Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ pound sausage (I use good quality turkey sausage)
3 leeks, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 tablespoon anchovy paste (completely optional; my secret ingredient)
1 pound green lentils, picked over
3 quarts, or more, chicken broth
¼ cup tomato paste (tomato paste in a tube is great for these sorts of uses)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- In same pot, add a bit more olive oil if there are not enough sausage drippings. Add the leeks and garlic to the drippings. Saute until translucent and tender, about 10 minutes. Add the diced celery and carrots and sauté until tender, about another 10 minutes. Add in the anchovy paste if using. Stir until combined with vegetables.
- Stir in the lentils. Stir to coat and add 3 quarts of broth and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until the lentils are tender, about an hour. Add additional broth, if needed, if soup thickens too much.
- Stir the sausage and any drippings back into the pot. Stir in the vinegar or red wine.
- Allow to simmer on low for 15 minutes for all the flavors to meld. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan.
- Buon appetito!