Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve 2013 -- Lentil Soup

In assenza di un vero Italiano in casa, sto facendo le lenticchie!  In the absence of a  real Italian in the house, I'm making lentils (for a traditional New Year's Eve dinner).

I bought these lentils at IperCoop in Cremona in November. Since I'm home two hours early today, I'm ready to make Le Lenticchie

I don't have the traditional cotechino, which is a big pork sausage that is simmered over low heat for about four hours. The cotechino from Modena is an IGP (legally-protected) product. 
Cotechino is also traditional to the regions of Lombardy, Molise, Trentino and Veneto. Its production dates back to 1511, when a way to preserve less favorable and tender parts of the pig was developed during a siege. 

So, I've searched and searched my collection of cookbooks, which I've bought in Italy, to make something yummy and authentic. 

I've chosen Pasta e lenticche (Pasta and Lentil Soup) from La Cucina del Bel Paese, published by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (2009, Rizzoli Publications).

A note states this recipe is from Puglia (typical of Foggia). I've made half a recipe. 

Having just eaten this soup, I can now say it is fantastic!! I've served it with a piece of focaccia I made over the weekend. I hope it brings me good luck in 2014! 

Pasta and Lentil Soup

Serves 3

3/4 c dried lentils
3 c water 
1 celery stock
1/2 red onion
2 cloves garlic
3 T Olive oil (EVO)
3 plum tomatoes or 10 cherry tomatoes
a handful of broken pasta

Clean and rinse the lentils and place in medium saucepan. Add 3 cups water. Add one crushed clove garlic.

Chop celery and onion. Add to lentil mixture. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature, cover with lid and simmer for twenty minutes. 

In another pan, combine olive oil, quartered tomatoes and a crushed clove of garlic. Simmer until reduced. 

Combine lentils and tomatoes mixtures, discarding garlic cloves. Add crushed pasta and simmer until pasta is cooked. Add more water if needed. 

Serve soup with freshed ground black pepper. I added no salt. 


CHEF'S TIPS from AcademiaBarilla.com

When you cook lentils, remember to salt them at the end of cooking, rather than the beginning, so that they don’t remain hard.

I've researched some Italian New Year's Eve traditions. Traditions vary from region to region. 

Lentils symbolize wealth and abundance. 

Raisins for good luck.

Red Underwear to bring good fortune in matters of love.

Fireworks and noise to scare away bad spirits. 

Gifting of dates and figs in honey, along with a bay branch for good fortune. (Ancient Rome)

The exchange of figs wrapped in laurel leaves to insure a sweet year, filled with good fortune. (Naples)

Toss things from windows to let go of  past unhappiness.  (Naples) 

From the late Kyle Phillips:

'In addition to playing an important role in soups and other first course dishes, lentils are a traditional accompaniment for zampone, cotechino, and other pork sausages, and are also a required item on the New Year's Eve (or Day) menu; their shape brings to mind tiny coins and people eat them in the hope that they won't want for cash during the rest of the year.'

More from Kyle Phillips on how Italians use lentils:  http://italianfood.about.com/od/aboutingredients/a/aa012200.htm

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