Celery and mustard greens ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

14 September 2009

Celery and mustard greens

Behold! A terrible muddy-looking picture of lentil soup!

I was trying to remember what all went into this, because lo, it was really good lentil soup. I think the secrets were 1. lots and lots of good celery (cut off a celery root and everything!) and 2. baby mustard greens.

Ok. Celery is nothing new in lentil soup, or really any soup, but this particular celery was so good! At first I was really focused on the root, since we'd never had such a thing just lying around the kitchen before. I spent a couple days fantasizing over remoulade recipes before I really thought about the stems at all.

Then, of course, I made lentil soup, and the celery stems suddenly transformed into the greatest things ever.

We didn't even have any carrots! No mirepoix!

The mustard greens were a different story. The CSA gave us three bags of different baby greens in one week. Great! Except that there are only two of us! It's hard to get through that amount of tiny baby greens before they curl up and die. We were putting them in Everything: multiple pastas with spinach, grilled cheese with mushrooms and mustard, and the aforementioned huge salads.

Mustard was the hardest green to use. I tried taking some to work and just eating it as plain salad, like I'd do with any baby green, but they were just too strong. We had to cook them. In this case, they made up for my pitiful lack of mustard seed perfectly.

A lentil soup with good celery and mustard greens.

olive oil
curry spices: curry powder, ginger
(I had some fresh ginger; why didn't that go in? Oh well.)
bay leaf
red lentils
a small potato
veg broth/water
white wine vinegar/other acid (lemon juice)
salt, pepper
mustard greens/other greens
sourdough toast to eat it with.

This is not a particularly innovative soup. It's just good.

First, warm some olive oil in a soup pot. Peel and dice an onion, then soften it slowly in the oil. Finely dice some stems of celery as well. I like to do this by making a long cut or three up the stalk, then dicing across. A fine dice is important, since it eliminates any issue with long unwieldy celery strings. You're welcome. Also, if your stalks happen to have leaves, throw them in too! I used all of mine, and the result was awesome.

Throw the celery in the pot with the onion, season with whatever curry/lentil spices you find appropriate, and cook on medium, stirring occasionally. You'd traditionally have some carrot dice in here as well, but I didn't have any, and it turned out fine. For spices, our cabinet is still lacking a bunch of odds and ends (such as mustard seed), so I just used a store curry blend and some ground ginger. I know! It was still good.

While things are cooking, peel and dice your potato. The finer the dice here, the less time that potato will take to cook. You can also make veg broth if you want, or wash some dishes. Etc.

When the onion and celery have softened, add several cups of water or broth, a big handful of red lentils (I used maybe 2/3 cup?), your potato, and a bay leaf. Stir it all up, put on the lid, and bring the business to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and potato are fully cooked and dissolving into the soup. This should take maybe twenty minutes; taste both the potato and lentil to make sure things are done to your liking. You can simmer it longer if your soup is too watery; this will let the extra liquid evaporate. Then remove the bay leaf, add salt and pepper, and make any other seasoning correction.

At this point I took my soup off the heat and puréed it with the stick blender. If you like a more chunky soup, feel free to leave it as-is.

Add a tablespoon or so of white wine vinegar to the pot, stir it up, taste it to make absolutely sure of seasonings, and you're done.

Serving: take a handful of mustard greens for each bowl. Keep in mind that mine were BABY greens; full-grown mustard may need a short dunk in the actual soup pot over the heat. Other greens should work fine too, as long as you keep in mind their various cooking needs.

Anyway. For baby mustard, chop the greens roughly and divide them into your bowls. Then ladle your soup directly onto them. Let the soup sit for a minute or two before eating, so the greens wilt just a touch. Perfect!

Eat it with toast or warm pita. Hummus is always a good idea here. So are olives. I'm just saying.

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