Definition of “shoestring “in the Online Dictionary: 1. Marked by or consisting of a small amount of money: a shoestring budget.
I have periodically given a workshop called “Sensuous Soups on a Shoestring”, in which I prepare in advance 3 delicious but simple soups for a tasting, and present imaginative input on the history of soup as a food form, its preparation and, most importantly, the “meaning” of soup in the metaphorical sense for being part of Community.
It is very true that we live in fiscally-challenging times, and that no matter what income level is ours at this particular moment, living with a budget is a very prudent idea. There are times in many of our stories when for a variety of reasons, there is a momentary blockage in the flow of money coming in, and choices need to be made as to how to take care of all responsibilities. Many people in our country are un-employed, or under-employed and many many people are being helped by the EBT (foodstamp) program, helping to support good food choices for nourishment during a time of stress and coping with financial challenge.
I encourage the experience that living on a shoe-string budget does not mean that what we eat should taste like shoe-leather. It IS possible to shop wisely, and make a simple soup on a budget to feed and NOURISH family of four for a wholesome dinner or for a single person for several days. And it is possible that what we prepare on a shoestring budget can be delicious, and sensuous with color, or flavour or textures or all three!
This all being said, I present Luscious Lentil Soup on a Shoestring. Good for “grounding”, good for the body and stregnth, wonderful nourishment. However. In color, it is BROWN (a story about that at the recipe’s end) but I assure you, the taste is wonderful! (6 SERVINGS)
1 can Progresso Lentil Soup ($1.00 at the Dollar Store), 2 -14 oz cans College Inn or Swanson reduced sodium chicken broth ($ 2.60 total on sale-stocked up), 1-2 carrots, diced ($.43), 1/2 small sweet onion, diced ($.84), 1 stalk of celery, diced (not in picture), 2 cloves of garlic, chopped small, 3 small cocktail tomatoes, seeded and chopped into quarters OR 1-2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped, 1-2 mild Italian sausages broiled, chopped and set aside, ($.99-$2.29), 1 little wedge of fresh lemon, or several small drops of lemon juice (careful here), and sprinkling to taste while cooking, dried basil, dried marjoram, and cayenne pepper for a personal sprinkle in the bowl. 1/2-1 cup of brown or white rice cooked separately and set aside.
Prepare brown or white rice ahead of time. Rinse rice grains in cold water until clear, then drain. To cook- 1 cup of rice to 2 1/2 cups of cold water, bring to a boil, then turn heat down, simmer until done..adding a little more water as necessary.
In a suitably- sized soup pan, saute onions, garlic and celery in a little butter or olive oil (or a mix of the two) until softened (do not burn), add diced carrots and celery and stir to coat. Add can of Lentil Soup, stir, add diced sausage, stir, add one cans chicken broth, stir, add the second can as desired for thickness of soup..add a small squeeze of fresh lemon, add 1/4 to 1/2 teasp of dried basil and dried marjoram (I just sprinkle as suits me), salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to simmer for 20 minutes, add diced tomatoes and cook just until they are softened. Taste, taste, taste..adjust seasonings to suit you.
Serve soup over cooked rice as preferred. Mix. I add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for heat, and good digestion.
*Note: I do not cook the rice IN the soup as it expands, soaks up the broth, swells in size and takes over. I want to taste and experience the SOUP, and the rice gives more nutrition and a little bulk..but this is never a RICE soup.
STORY: Periodically it is my pleasure to host a family of wonderful musicians from Ecuador who stay with me when they are in the area for performances and conferences. We eat together late at night when they return from their concerts, and being on the road, they truly look forward to “what are we going to eat???” in the home-cooked family style way. This soup is BROWN, and when I poured it into the bowls, a look went around the table amongst them, no words…but I KNEW. They were not pleased with the color, and suspected I had fallen short of my usual culinary offerings to them as my guests. I had to laugh..being with them for so many years I know their ways, and I truly understood their looks and momentary silence as they pondered the BROWN-ness in the bowl. Hesitantly, gingerly but politely, the spoons went in..into the bowls, and then into their mouths. A look of surprise, nodding heads and without a word, thumbs went up…YES!
****My advice when cooking such foods in the beige and brown color pallette…in this instance, the sensuousness is in the imaginative and artful use of ingredients, herbs and seasonings..taste, taste, TASTE as you cook, and make it delicious.
It is also true, that for soups and stews, the flavour is even better on the second and third day from preparation.
It may be a soup on a shoestring, but this is sturdy delicious fare to get you through the tough times as well as the good times. ENJOY!