January is always a time for me to set intentions for the year, to clean out my closets and my body. But cleansing does not have to be hardcore. No need for fasting or eating food that tastes like cardboard. I make it a goal to create delicious meals. This soup is a great example of a delicious and healthy dinner.
Feel free to alter this recipe to fit your goals and tastes. As it stands, this soup is gluten- and dairy-free. You can make it vegan, too, by substituting vegan sausage and vegetable stock.
One of the keys to making food flavorful when you embark on a clean-eating program is to uses lots of herbs and spices. This recipe uses some of my favorites — dried thyme, marjoram and fennel seeds — and lemon zest and juice brightens the peppery arugula.
I recently made this recipe for some friends, who were not on any kind of New Year’s resolution-driven diet, let alone a cleanse. When they asked me for the recipe, I knew I had a winner.
Lentil Soup with Sausage and Arugula Pesto
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 small carrots, peeled and diced
4 celery stalks, diced
12 ounces apple-chicken or other sausage, diced into ½-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ cup white wine
½ cup lentils
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large clove garlic, peeled
2 teaspoon marjoram or oregano leaves
1 cup arugula
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Juice of ½ a lemon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
For the soup: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and celery, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the sausage and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and fennel seeds; cook for 2 minutes.
Add the white wine and cook, scraping up any vegetable bits that might have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add lentils and stock. Cook until the lentils are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Add tomato paste and kosher salt. Set aside.
For the pesto: Using a food processor, pulse the garlic, marjoram, arugula and toasted pine nuts until well minced. With the food processor running, add the olive oil, lemon zest, juice and salt. Scrape down the sides and pulse again, adding more salt or lemon juice if needed.
To serve, ladle hot soup into bowls. Top with a dollop of arugula pesto and garnish with a sprig of marjoram.
Bibby Gignilliat is the founder of Parties That Cook, a San Francisco-based culinary event company; www.PartiesThatCook.com.