Lentil, Chestnut Mushrooms and Amaranth Winter Soup

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To me, winter soups are brothy and warming. They contain a lot of items that last well in a pantry (lentils, beans, roots and grains), augmented with a few bright flashes of fresh vegetable for interest. Although it is currently autumn, I built this soup along those very winter soup principles- carrots, onions and garlic build a strong base for the lentils and amaranth, which is punctuated by strong and nutty mushrooms surrounded by colorful and vibrant swiss chard.

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One thing I’ve learned as I delved into the world of fungi foraging, is that there are more exotic mushrooms around than even the woods will provide. The mushrooms in this recipe, Pholiota adiposa, or chestnut mushrooms, can only be found in the forrests of Europe, therefore searching my new New England woods would be useless. I instead got these from the same mushroom farmer that grew my lion’s mane mushrooms. These chestnut mushrooms have long, crisp stems, are nutty with a peppery after taste. If you cannot find a farmer in your area, you could substitute a different mushroom in their place- shiitake or bunapi would both be good.

Another ingredient featured in this soup is amaranth. Amaranth was cultivated over 8,000 years ago in the Americas, and was a staple food of the Aztecs. It has been virtually unmodified since then, and contains high levels of protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and folate. It is composed of small kernels, which when added to the soup give it a pleasant texture and make it more filling.

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Making the soup is very simple- first we sauté the carrots, mushrooms, onions and garlic before adding the lentils, bay leaves, wine and broth. I prefer to have a lot of broth in my soups, but if you are a less enthusiastic broth fan you could reduce the 10 cups to 8 cups. I also used small green lentils from Trader Joes- if you have other lentils, check the cooking time and adjust accordingly. Since the final ingredients (the hearty greens and the amaranth) only need to cook for 20 minutes, subtract that amount of time from your lentils’ cook time which will give you the total minutes to allow your lentils to cook alone. Once you’ve waited the appropriate amount of time- in my case, 20 minutes- add the amaranth and a hearty green. I have used both swiss chard and kale here, but you could also try collards, mustard greens or turnip greens- any green that will stand up to the 20 minute long cooking time. Add salt right at the end- earlier will interfere with the lentils cooking properly- and serve hot.

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Lentil, Chestnut Mushrooms and Amaranth Winter Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 TPSB olive oil
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of chestnut mushrooms (or shiitake, bunapi, crimini), cleaned and with the ends of the stems cut off
  • 8-10 cups of vegetable broth/water, depending on how much broth you like
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup small green lentils
  • ½ cup amaranth grain
  • 4-5 kale, chard or other hearty green leaves chopped into bite sized pieces (about 2 cups chopped)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Steps

1. Heat the oil in a large pot, before adding the carrots, onions and garlic and mushrooms. Cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the vegetable broth, wine, bay leaves and lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and let cook for 20 minutes.

2. After 20 minutes, add the amaranth and greens. Cover again and allow to cook for an additional 20 minutes.

3. Taste the lentils- if they are soft enough, remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. If not, allow to cook for another 5-10 minutes, until they are soft.

 

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