Friday, June 5, 2009

Last Night's Dinner

A few days ago I bought a pound of Oscar’s Hickory House bacon at the IGA to make Spaghetti alla Carbonara for my daughter’s birthday dinner. This savory, smoky bacon shouldn't be confused with the merely salty Oscar Meyer bacon sitting beside it in the refrigerator case. Bless the IGA for stocking artisan pork products such as this one! I only used half a pound and the other half was sitting in the refrigerator.

Yesterday was cool and rainy, and since one child needed to be at a dance rehearsal at dinner hour I thought I would make vegetarian lentil soup, feed her early, and reheat it for everyone else later. As I gathered my ingredients, I looked at the Oscar’s package. I know I’m not alone in secretly believing that the flavor of most vegetarian dishes can be vastly improved by the addition of a small amount of bacon. I chopped some up, cooked it until crisp, set it aside, and started my lentil soup in the pot with a little bacon grease. Then I garnished the bowls with the bacon bits. We all agreed it was the best vegetarian lentil soup we’d ever had.

“Vegetarian” Lentil Soup
Serves 6

To make real vegetarian lentil soup, leave out the bacon and sauté your onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil instead of bacon grease. Then drizzle each bowl with more olive oil to taste (use really good olive oil and you may not miss the bacon bits).

3 or 4 slices thick-cut bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
One 1-inch piece of fresh gingerroot, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
5 cups water
1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper

1. Cook the bacon until crisp in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove it to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease.
2. Add the onion to the pot and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, paprika, and turmeric and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the tomatoes, water, lentils, cilantro, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the lentils are soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
4. Puree 2 cups of the soup in a blender or food processor, return to the pot, and season with salt and pepper before serving.


  1. I notice that your posts are earlier and ealier each day.
    The lentil soup sounds grest - I will try it - but any chance you will post the Shapgetti al la Carbonara recipe?

  2. For that, you'll have to go to Cook's Illustrated!