My parents were great entertainers in their day. I always remember a dining room filled with our neighbors and other close friends. With three kids, socializing usually had to happen at home. On New Year’s Eve my mom would make endless amounts of food for picking and my dad would mix the drinks. As my brothers got older my parents started to spend New Year’s Eve at my godparents’ house, leaving my brothers to God knows what shenanigans, but taking me along with them. Normally I wasn’t too keen on this deal, but New Year’s Eve at my godparents’ house was an exception. It was always so much fun! The adults would wander across the street to my aunt and uncle’s house and the kids would be left to their own devices. For years, well into adulthood, those childhood New Year’s Eve celebrations remained my favorite. Nothing ever compared to the freedom I felt being left with a house full of kids, all a bit older than I was, totally unsupervised. It was innocent fun but somehow it felt like I was getting away with something.
The next day our main meal usually consisted of lentils and pork in keeping with the traditional Italian notion that these foods bring abundance and wealth. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it back then, but as an adult I look forward to mimicking my mom’s way each year on January 1st. Knowing my mom she probably cooked a number of other food options for us, appeasing whatever fussy food limitations we may have had back then. Although she had a soft spot for our food tastes and picky phases, I’m glad she always insisted that we at least try every dish once. That experience has informed my cooking and eating habits today and cultivated a taste and appreciation for many different foods.
I’m definitely my parents’ daughter. It’s no surprise then that the New Year’s Eve tradition that Mike and I have started is to entertain at home each and every December 31st. It’s finally an event that compares with those fun parties at my godparents house so many years ago. We always make too much food and buy too much prosecco. Like my dad did years ago, Mike mixes the drinks for our friends and neighbors. The only difference is that now we’re the adults, in theory. Last night’s celebration was another success and I’m so grateful for the ability to relive a bit of the past.
Today I made a huge pot of lentil soup, deviating somewhat from my mom’s original recipe. I wanted to use up as many of the leftovers as possible, so like usual this dish became a “what’s in the fridge” meal. We had several leftover vegetables that made their way into today’s soup, skewing the lentil to vegetable ratio a bit. I also added some broiled sausage which gave this rendition of lentil soup and amazing flavor. You can also adjust the water added to make it thicker or more broth heavy depending on your preference. I’m a fan either way, but Mike requested broth-heavy this time so that’s how I made it. We hope you will enjoy the recipe below and try it out yourself. Change it around and make it your own. That’s the beauty of a recipe. Happy New Year! May it bring you an abundance of food, family and friends and a wealth of love, health and happiness!
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- 1 cup dried brown lentils
- 10-12 cups of water (less water will make a thicker soup, more will produce more broth)
- 1-2 large celery stalks
- 2 -3 carrots
- 1 medium onion
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1-2 clove garlic
- 1-2 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Fresh chopped parsley (about a handful)
- Grated cheese for sprinkling (optional)
- 1-2 links of broiled sausage (optional)
- 1/2 cup pasta, measured dry (optional)
- Rinse lentils and set aside in a colander to strain.
- Rough chop the celery, carrots, onions and tomatoes so that they are all about the same size (about a 1/2 inch cube) so they cook evenly
- Peel garlic and cut in half.
- Partially fill a medium size soup pot (about 4 quart) with water (+/- one cup depending on how thick you want your soup) and then add the chopped vegetable, the whole garlic, bay leaf, lentils, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook over medium heat until soup comes to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer about 30-35 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
- Stir the fresh parsley into the soup toward the end of cook time when the vegetables start to soften.
- If using sausage add to the soup now.
- If using pasta, add right before serving thew soup.
- When the vegetables are soft, remove from heat. Serve hot. Add more fresh parsley and also grated cheese as desired.