Two Years Ago: Chicken and Wild Rice
OK, most of the country is freezing and it's the new year, which means healthy resolutions. Time for soup.
This is a fresh take on lentil or split pea soup, where Mexican chorizo takes the place of the more traditional smoked sausage or ham. The chorizo and ground cumin give the soup more of a southwestern profile instead of the German or Russian flavors often associated with a lentil soup. Red lentils are somewhat more unusual and slightly harder to find than brown or green lentils, but taste basically the same. I found them at my local Sprouts store in the bulk aisle; you'll generally find them in most natural food stores and of course at Whole Foods. The reason why they're worth searching out for this soup is purely aesthetic - the yellow color of the cooked lentils contrasts nicely with the green spinach and reddish chorizo and takes it out of the whole "green/brown glop" category that characterizes so many lentil or split pea soups.
Every time I post a recipe with chorizo I feel the need to add the same caution: Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo are two different things. Mexican chorizo, which is what this recipe calls for, is a fresh (uncooked) sausage sold either in a tube or on a tray - think Italian sausage but without casings. Spanish chorizo, on the other hand, is a cured dried sausage that looks like a pepperoni link. If you can't find Mexican chorizo, you can use hot Italian sausage instead - just take it out of the casings. Either way, the spicy sausage is the perfect addition for what would otherwise be a fairly bland soup so don't leave it out. And because chorizo is pretty spicy, the sour cream adds nice cooling and creamy accent as well.
Now that it's winter, soup is the perfect comfort food and lentil soup is not only comforting, but good for you and delicious as well. This soup is ready in about 30 minutes, making it a great weeknight meal.
Red Lentil and Chorizo Soup
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 lb dried red lentils
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces fresh Mexican chorizo (or hot Italian sausage without casings)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 ounces baby spinach, stems removed
1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
In a 5-quart soup pot, bring broth, water, lentils, onion, garlic, cumin, and cayenne pepper to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chorizo or sausage and cook, breaking up chunks into small crumbles with a wooden spoon, until fully cooked through. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Stir the soup and add salt and pepper to taste, remembering that the chorizo will add both salt and spice. Add the spinach to soup and cook 3 to 4 minutes longer, until spinach is wilted. Serve the soup topped with chorizo and a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.