I generally have a lot to say, but this week has been different. Since last Friday’s horrific events, I have sat down to write something here a number of times, but I haven’t been able to string words together in any sort of meaningful way. I hope it goes without saying that my thoughts are with everyone touched by the tragedy in Newtown, though. I am so very sorry for your loss; I am also amazed and inspired by your strength and grace.

It’s never been more clear to me than now that when the world scares and saddens me, I retreat to my kitchen. It’s a place where things make sense. It’s where I feel happy and safe.

As you can probably imagine, and maybe like many of you, I’ve busied myself more than ever in the kitchen this week. I’ve made batch after batch of this toffee, as well as a slew of cookies. These were gifts for teachers and others who make a difference in my family’s world…they are small tokens, but they’re infused with love…love I hope the recipients will feel this year more than ever before.

As for this lentil soup (that I adapted from the wonderful Nourished Kitchen), I believe meals built around foods like this provide vital nutrition and much needed comfort during trying times. Many of us surely need that right now…

Recipe for Nourishing Lentil Soup

Yield: about 6 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes (+ optional 8 to 12 hours for soaking the lentils)

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Two "notes" about this recipe:

-Lentils do not need to be soaked before use, but doing so makes them more digestible and gives your body greater access to the nutrients they contain. It's best to soak them in water to which some acid (such as apple cider vinegar) has been added.

-When adding wine to recipes, make sure to use one that you enjoy! I chose a full-bodied red from a local vineyard...and had a glass (or was it two?) while I was cooking.

Ingredients:

*1 1/2 cups French green ("Puy") lentils
*2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (optional- if soaking the lentils)
*2 tablespoons olive oil or pastured butter or bacon fat (or combine the fats to your liking: I used 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of pastured bacon fat)
*1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
*2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
*2 stalks celery, preferably organic, finely chopped
*2 scrubbed carrots, preferably organic and peeled if not, chopped
*6 cups homemade stock (vegetable or poultry: I used the stock I made with my Thanksgiving turkey carcass) or water, plus more if necessary to thin out the finished soup
*2 bay leaves
*2 handfuls of greens, roughly chopped (such as kale, collards, or mustard greens; I used mixed "winter" greens from a local farm)
*1/2 cup red wine
*Your best olive oil (I love Nudo Olive Oils), plus aged balsamic vinegar for drizzling on top of individual servings of the finished soup
*Freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt to taste (you might not need any salt if your stock was salted)

Directions:

1. Rinse and pick over the lentils in a colander over the sink. If soaking them, place them in a bowl and cover with water. Add apple cider vinegar, stir well, and allow the lentils to soak for 8-12 hours. Strain the lentils in a colander and rinse them thoroughly.

If not soaking the lentils, go right to step #2.

2. In a large pot, saute onions and garlic in olive oil (or oil with butter or bacon fat) over medium heat for a minute or two.

3. Add the chopped celery and carrots and cook, stirring them around, for a minute or two more.

4. Add lentils and stir all the ingredients around, then add the stock or water and the bay leaves.

5. Bring to a boil, skim any foam off the top of the soup, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes, or until lentils and vegetables are very tender. Add the wine and cook for 5 minutes more.

6. Remove from heat and stir in the greens. Allow about five minutes for them to wilt completely.

7. Ladle the soup into bowls, douse with some olive oil and vinegar, and sprinkle with black pepper (and coarse sea salt to taste) before serving. I eat soups like this with gluten-free crackers and generous amounts of good, strong cheese.

Adapted from Nourished Kitchen...head over to Jenny's great site to read all about the health benefits of lentils.

These posts from fellow bloggers made me cry and think a lot this week; I hope you can set aside some time to read them:

Noah Pozner: Force of Nature
My Newtown
The Blessing of Extraordinary People
On Newtown
After Newtown
It Might Get Loud
Light in the Darkness
“You Must Go On, I Can’t Go on, I’ll Go On…”