I'm currently in heaven on Earth (also known as Provence, France) while organizing my upcoming Gastronomad Provence Experience.
I bought some French lentil beans a few days ago in the village of Orange. And I also picked up all the seasonal local produce I could find this time of the year at the local organic farmer's stand during the Thursday's farmer’s market in L'Isle Sur La Sorgue, our temporary home here. The market sets up by the church just steps away from where we're living.
It's the end of February on a very chilly 22-degrees F weather and our first time visiting Provence in the winter. Naturally, I've I just made a big batch of lentil soup using what I had on hand, plus some dried thyme and also dried rosemary from our hostess' garden.
The whole time I cooked it with the soothing sounds of the beautiful music she plays often -- mostly classical and opera. The kitchen smells divine from the lentil soup and the sweet aromas of rosemary and thyme. The cute kitchen is small but functional and well equipped for its size.
(I wonder what would the walls say if they could talk? What would they say about all the cooks that have inhabited its space during its lifetime in the past 320 years?)
The home feels like it has a life of its own and I'm so in love with its coziness and simplicity, but quirkiness that's inevitable as residents customize and accommodate over the centuries. I especially love the all exposed large beams in the ceiling.
The owner of the house is a wonderful French woman, who's now our friend. She lives in the upstairs of the house and we're renting the downstairs. We share the kitchen and we've been sharing some meals.
She has just invited us to dinner tomorrow night. Apparently, French Onion Soup is on the menu. The house reflects her charming personality, friendly disposition and the warmth of her character. She's lovely and so is her home.
French Green Lentil Provencal Soup
Ingredients on hand:
1½ pounds French green lentil beans (soak for 2 to 4 hours in a large bowl with water)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion peeled and diced (yellow, white or red)
2 large stalks of celery, finely diced
4 medium to large carrots, diced (any color)
2 medium leeks thinly sliced then roughly chopped (white and light green part only)
4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
12 cups of filtered water (3 liters)
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 small bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped (large stems removed) (substitute with cilantro)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, ground with mortar & pestle (or chopped/crushed with knife)
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, ground with mortar & pestle (or use ground cumin)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt (or to your own taste)
Optional serving garnishes/flavors: cultured goat butter, extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, sheep or goat yogurt & more fresh herbs
Play some classical music and pour yourself a nice glass of wine to slowly sip as you cook with ♥!
In a large heavy bottom pot, slowly heat olive oil over low to medium heat. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in celery and carrots sautéing for 10 more minutes (add more olive oil if too dry). Stir in leeks and garlic and sauté for 15 more minutes over low heat with lid closed (stirring occasionally).
Drain soaking lentils and discard soaking water. Rinse lentils under cold running water until water comes out clean. Add lentils to sautéed veggie mixture followed by vinegar and 10 cups of water. Close with lid and simmer over medium to high heat for 20 minutes (set timer). If thick foam builds up on top, remove it with a spoon.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients: parsley, thyme, rosemary, cumin, black pepper and salt. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes over low heat or until the lentils are soft to the touch (stir occasionally and keep lid closed). Adjust seasoning and salt as desired.
Serve with drizzled fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil or cultured butter and or yogurt. Add more fresh herbs and or ground cumin then eat and share with ♥!
(Note: All lentils take different amount of time to fully cook. Keep cooking them even if it takes more than an hour to cook. You can’t hurry bean cooking just like you can’t hurry love.)