I haven’t been dealing well with the seasonal change this year. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to summer when it abruptly departed a few weeks ago without so much as hug or proper farewell. It left without comment – taking sweet corn, nectarines, Rosé, and my ability to wear my white skirt with it.
Fall seemed to happen over night. In recent weeks, the air has turned cold and vacant, the blue skies have grown tired and gray, and when I wake up in the morning the world is still sinister and dark.
It makes me sad. It makes me tired. It makes me want to burrow under my pink comforter and hide away until it is sunny and light again.
My appetite has changed too. I no longer want to eat leafy salads dotted with slivers of plums and fennel, or the Greek yogurt parfaits I’d been eating for breakfast with sweet blueberries and vanilla-scented granola. I want warm, comforting foods – banana walnut oatmeal with dates, turkey meatballs, chicken marsala.
Last Friday, the light at the end of my dark tunnel of a day was 101 Cookbooks’ “Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup.” As the dark clouds threatened to burst over Los Angeles, I fantasized about going home, changing into sweatpants, and cuddling up with a big bowl of the stew-like soup.
The end product was everything I wanted it to be – and, most importantly, everything I needed it to be on that particular day. It warmed my soul. It lifted my spirit. And it reminded me that not everything about fall is bad.
“Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup”
Lightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
1 cup green French lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
1 14-ounce can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups green chard rinsed well, deveined, finely chopped
Crispy shallots (optional)
a pinch of saffron (30-40 threads)
1 tablespoon boiling water
two pinches of salt
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add the lentils, and cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
While the lentils are cooking, make the saffron yogurt by combining the saffron threads and boiling water in a tiny cup. Let the saffron steep for a few minutes. Now stir the saffron along with the liquid into the yogurt. Mix in the salt and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat, then add the onion and salt and sauté until tender, a couple minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, lentils, and vegetable broth and continue cooking for ten more minutes, letting the soup come back up to a simmer.
Stir in the chopped greens, and wait another minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be. Ladle into bowls, and serve with a dollop of the saffron yogurt and optional crispy shallots.