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|EVERY FEW MINUTES|
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1 lb lentils
4 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
2-3 stalks celery
2 large onions (Vidalia if available)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (16 oz) low sodium beef broth (or beef soup base)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 lb fresh spinach, washed, finely chopped
2 pork sausages (optional)
Parmesan cheese (for sprinkling)
Note: If available, beef bones, a large ham bone or homemade stock may be used in place of the canned beef broth or soup base.
Cook lentils in beef stock in a pressure cooker, or you can do this over the stove; it will just take longer.
If you want to add meat, before you begin, sauté a few broken up pork sausages in olive oil (Italian hot sausage is nice). Or for a change, add whole cheese rinds leftover from Pecorino Romano or Parmesan wheels.
You can use homemade beef stock, canned beef broth or reconstituted beef soup base (your preference). Water will do in a pinch, but will lack the good flavor that broth will contribute.
To the broth (in the same pan), add minced fresh garlic to your taste, chopped sweet onions (1 or 2 large), finely minced (strings removed) celery and crushed red or black pepper (a pinch of cayenne if you like it).
In a pressure cooker, this will take 20-30 minutes depending on how dry/old the lentils are to begin with. Be sure that you add enough water/broth to the pressure cooker at the start; at least 3-4 inches above the top of the beans.
If cooking on the stovetop, add broth as required and cook until lentils are tender, 1-2 hours over low heat (barely a simmer).
During the last 10 minutes or so, (when the lentils are tender) bring to a high simmer and add about 1 lb finely chopped well washed fresh spinach. If using baby spinach, cook only 5 minutes (in the same pan as the soup).
Crush a few tablespoons of the lentils into a paste with the back of a spoon if the soup needs thickening.
Remove from heat and adjust seasoning, adding olive oil, salt, pepper, a sprinkling of onion and/or garlic powder and pinch of hot cayenne pepper if it needs a kick.
Serve garnished with a generous sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
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