I’ve know Bonnie Gross for over 30 years . She and her husband, David Blasco, moved to South Florida from Chicago in late 1978 -- almost the exact time Doug and I moved here from New Jersey.
David and Doug both worked for the Miami Herald’s Broward edition in Fort Lauderdale. Bonnie was hired by the Sun-Sentinel, also in Fort Lauderdale. I was the only one of the four of us who was not a journalist. My love was -- and still is -- in the field of education.
Bonnie began writing for the newspaper’s “Lifestyle” section. In time, “Food Editor” (and a number of other titles) were added to her list of credentials. One of the perks of being the food editor was that she received complimentary copies of cookbooks.
While dining at Bonnie and David’s home on a recent Sunday, Bonnie pulled a cookbook from her kitchen shelf, called “Aphrodite’s Kitchen: Homestyle Greek Cooking.” The cookbook looked ancient. The copyright date was 1978- - the year the four of us met, 32 years ago. Boy, if that didn’t make us feel old!
For the sake of professional curiosity, I had to examine the book to see if there were any interesting recipes. Many of Aphrodite’s recipes could easily be Armenian. Lots of lamb, eggplant, and recipes with phyllo dough -- you know, the usual.
One recipe stood out: Lentil Soup with Spinach. It’s one of our favorite soup recipes that was to be part of my Lenten dishes collection. What is the soup's origin -- Armenian, Greek, Mediterranean? Who knows? All I know is that it’s delicious, nutritious, and perfect anytime of the year, but especially for Lent.
Lentil Soup with Spinach
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups water or vegetable stock
1 -10 oz. Package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a large pot, saute celery, carrot, and onion in olive oil until soft but not brown.
2. Add lentils and water or vegetable stock. Cook, with pot cover tilted, on medium heat for about 45 minutes or until lentils are soft. Stir occasionally. Add more liquid if needed.
3. Add spinach and cook for another 15 minutes.
4. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Looking for some lentil soup variations? See reader Ara's comment.
"Lentil soup is a favorite comfort food for me and my family.
In Cilicia (where my family is from), they use short-grain rice instead of bulghur. The use of rice is probably Turkish-influenced, since rice is a newcomer to the area. Also, my mom's recipe calls for cooking half the onion with the lentil and sauteeing the rest until medium brown ("sokharants").
Also, I have seen some recipes that add basil in addition to the ingredients you have listed.
Personally, I have added cumin, red pepper, and/or jalapenos with some success. if you want to go totally Indian, you can also add a very small pinch of asafoetida ("hing") and some raw peanuts (in which case you saute the spices and peanuts in olive oil before adding the rest of the ingredients).
Any of the above combinations works, of course. A simple bowl of lentil soup on a cold winter night is like the sun rising over your tummy. :-)"