Yesterday was a day full of errands and cooking.
In related news, I made the best homemade lentil soup in the world.
In a medium pot — 2 quarts, or thereabouts — fry up a chopped onion, two finely chopped carrots, and about six minced cloves of garlic in enough oil to lightly coat everything. Add a bunch of ground pepper, depending on how much you like pepper. Cook on a medium-low heat so the garlic doesn’t burn.
When the onions are starting to go soft, add about two cups of chopped mushrooms. I used criminis because that’s what was starting to go off in the fridge. Fry all of that up, adding a smidge more oil if you need to.
When the onions are translucent and the garlic is soft, add broth. Here’s where I had a secret weapon. I used four cups of homemade vegetable stock and two cups of broth from cooking beans. The bean broth is thick and rich and absolutely full of garlic and onion powders, from when I cooked the beans. Add about a teaspoon of sea salt, or more or less depending on your taste.
When all of that is simmering, add a half-cup of dry lentils and a quarter-cup of quinoa. Cover and simmer until the lentils are soft, somewhere in the vicinity of a half-hour.
This recipe is the kind of recipe I never could have contemplated, a few years back. My life was not one that supported an infrastructure of cooking. These days it does, and I do, and I make things like this on the spur of the moment.
So what can you, the person who does not cook and doesn’t know where to start — the person I was a few years ago — do to start establishing the preconditions for success at soup?
A relatively easy first step is to make beans.
To make beans the way I make them requires a pot with a lid, a stove, dry beans, water, bay leaves, garlic powder, onion powder, a spoon, freezer-safe containers, a refrigerator and freezer, and time.
Put some beans in the pot. For a small pot, use a cup of dry beans. A medium pot, two or three cups. I, personally, use one cup of black beans, one cup of pinto beans, and one cup of kidney beans. Put the dry beans in the pot, fill the pot with cold water, put the lid on it.
Let the pot of cold beans sit on your counter for ten to sixteen hours. I usually just let it sit overnight. This soaks the beans and helps remove chemicals that are hard to digest.
Dump out that water and rinse the beans in cold water a few times. Fill the pot 3/4 full of cold water with the beans sitting in it. Add one bay leaf. Add about 1-3 tsp of garlic powder and 1-3 tsp of onion powder.
If this is your first time doing this, add the smaller amount. You’ll know next time whether you want to add more.
Set the pot on the stove on high heat, stirring occasionally, until the water is boiling. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting at which the water is still simmering. Put the lid on it.
About every hour, come give the pot of beans a stir and put the lid on it.
When the beans are starting to come apart under your stirring spoon, they are done.
Drain the liquid off into some freezer-safe containers. Put them in your freezer or refrigerator. That’s your bean stock for later recipes. Put the beans in containers in your refrigerator. These can be added cold to salads, mashed up and refried with onions and garlic and cumin, added to soup, stir-fried with eggs and bell peppers, almost anything you want. They are nummy and garlicy and the base for many things.