whatever-you-have minestrone

You know what I have? Canned and frozen goods. Know what I need? Soup. This is what I used:

-a small ziplock filled with saved beef bones from the freezer
-1 leek, sliced after a good cleaning
-3 cloves garlic, chopped
-2 celery stalks, sliced
-1 large carrot, diced
-2 bay leaves
-dried red pepper, I use aleppo pepper
-14.5oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes plus same amount of water
-parmesan rind, I keep mine in the freezer
-14.5oz canned cannellini beans plus 2×water or stock, more if you want it brothy
-275g potatoes (a little over a cup), I use golden varieties but any will do
-200g zucchini (about 3/4 cup), cored if large and very seedy, diced
-handfuls of frozen peas, or any frozen veggie
-chopped greens such as kale, swiss chard, whatever you have

Literally, whatever. Any kind of bean or green or herb or saved rind. A different allium or canned tomato or root vegetable. I wish I had pumpkin or sweet potatoes, but I didn’t. Frozen peas was a nice touch of sweet that was missing. Frozen or canned corn is nice, too.

I browned the bones first in some olive oil and red pepper, then added leeks, garlic, celery and carrot. Sauted them for a couple of minutes then added the bay leaves, diced tomatoes, water, and rind. Allow that to simmer for 25 minutes before adding beans and more stock. Allow that to boil for 15 minutes then add your potatoes. After about 8 minutes when the potatoes are slightly tender, you’ll add the zucchini and peas. When they are ready, your greens come next. Turn off the stove and add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle away.

I served mine with Jamie Oliver’s baked tiella rice from Jamie Cooks Italy. Layers of cherry tomatoes, potatoes, celery, mussels, parmesan, zuchinni..cooked in prosecco say what!? It was magic. But, please, this soup is quite filling on it’s own.

A soup of leeks, potatoes, sunchokes, roasted garlic

A soup of leeks, potatoes, sunchokes, roasted garlic

Decided to share this super simple recipe with you after a few requests from friends on Instagram. Especially from those who just got their Misfits delivery in and now have lots of potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes) to use.

This soup becomes super silky and creamy with no milk added and serves 4-5. All you need is:

-few tbs butter or long drizzle of olive oil
-1 large leek, light green and whites cleaned well and sliced, or 1 small onion, diced
-2 sprigs of fresh thyme or dried herbs
-550g potatoes (a little over 2 cups), diced, I used a golden variety but any will do
-200g Jerusalem artichoke, about 1 large, peeled as much as possible, then diced
-200g carrot, about a cup, peeled and diced
-roasted garlic (optional but totally a game changer)
-good quality stock, veggie or chicken
-salt and pepper to taste

In a pot under low-medium heat, saute your leeks til they break a part, about 10 minutes, stirring often. As Nigel Slater warns several times in his books, do not scorch them, like I tend to do. Add everything else plus enough stock or whatever to cover, and simmer til both potatoes and sunchokes become tender. Discard any sprigs and puree with an immersion blender or any blender. You can serve as is but it does really well with any leftovers you have.

I had a bowl with crepes, celery leaves, and bacon, and the next day I had a bowl with a sprinkling of a corn salad I made the day before for fajitas. Consider the soup a template for many unusual possibilities, for unusual times.

roasted chicken noodle soup

It has taken me 11 days in quarantine to slow.thefuck.down. How ’bout you? I found myself rushing from room to room, hurrying up the cooking process as I’m used to doing when I actually HAD a job. The key word being had. I’ve lost mine, like so many others, and it didn’t really sink in til today while I was trying, for the 7th time, to file for unemployment. The site keeps crashing. The phones are too busy. The application itself sounds like it’s gearing towards those with a w2 and not a 1099. Do I even qualify? And while I’m tearing my hair out, I hear my mom on the phone losing her job as well. I hear crying. And I can only imagine all the crying being done today around the world at that exact moment. It’s a lot, I know. And so I’m needing to slow.thefuck.down. Making pots and pots of soup every other day while sticking to cookbooks cause I can’t think beyond that.

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This one is easy. A rich stock is created by cooking down roasted veggies and chicken. (And the chicken, in my opinion, tastes better roasted.)

roasted chicken noodle soup

preheat oven to 425 degrees

for the roasting part

-large half of a whole chicken, or 1 small whole chicken, skin on
-2 carrots, unpeeled, broken in half
-2 celery stalks, broken in half
-1 onion, halved, skin on
-few cloves of garlic, smashed
-1 small knob of parsnip, halved, (optional)
-sprigs of thyme or any other sprig-like herb
-drizzle of olive oil
-salt and pepper

Toss all of the above ingredients in a dutch oven or roasting pan and roast for about 45 minutes, uncovered, til the chicken has browned and cooked through.

When it’s cool enough, separate meat from the bones. Keep in a container til ready to serve.

time for the soup part

-roasted bones from chicken plus roasted veggies
-fill the pot with water or veggie/chicken stock of choice
(bouillon cubes allowed. no judgement here)
-2 bay leaves

Bring to a simmer and let the roasted goodness do it’s thang to the broth for about 30 minutes. Then strain everything out. I actually used tongs but use whatcha got. Then add:

-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
-1 celery stalk, sliced
-4 medium-sized potatoes, I used yukon, halved if small enough, or quartered
-your noodles of choice
-your herbs of choice (I used parsley and dill)

Let simmer til carrots and potatoes are tender. Add the noodles and herbs towards the end and that’s it! Enjoy. Slow down. Breathe.

roasted garlic and carrot lentil soup with crispy brussels sprouts

roasted garlic and carrot lentil soup with crispy brussels sprouts

When I told Dan this is too simple to put on the blog, let’s just say he might’ve called me crazy. Yes, it’s simple. Ridiculously simple. But when he said “not everyone who roasts a whole head of garlic will think to turn it into a soup,” well, he makes a point.

Roast your garlic and a pound of carrots for 45 minutes to an hour, and you’ll have something so wonderfully flavorful you’ll want to do very little to it.

But maybe you’ll want to add shredded, crispy bits of brussels sprouts…which REALLY elevates this whole dang thing. I’m not even spreading lies. Just don’t buy an entire stalk of em along with other heavy things from a farm that doesn’t offer bags cause, that’s not so simple. (Totally worth it, though).

You will need:

-1 medium head of garlic
-pound of carrots, peeled or not
-1/2 cup red lentils
-6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
-1 tsp ground cumin
-red pepper, as much as you’d like
-salt, to taste
-olive oil, for pan and roasting

-pound of Brussels sprouts, halved and sliced
-more olive oil

Can you believe that’s it?

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Laying the garlic flat on aluminum foil, cut the tops off the head and drizzle olive oil over it. Seal it shut.

Lay your carrots on a sheet pan and toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper.

Put both the garlic and carrots in your oven. The carrots should take about 40-45 minutes to caramelize, and the garlic about an hour.

While that’s in the oven, drizzle olive oil into a preheated pan and add your shredded Brussels sprouts. Stir only occasionally, as you want most of them to be crispy.

When everything is out of the oven, carefully take the cloves out (you can wait about 15 minutes if you have the time) and add them to a blender along with the carrots and enough stock to make a nice puree.

In a pot, gently toast your ground cumin til well-scented. Add a drizzle of oil and your red pepper flakes. You want to infuse that oil with some heat. Then stir in the puree and the rest of the stock. Add the red lentils and simmer til they are cooked.

Pour into bowls and top them with the nutty goodness of Brussels sprouts. Let me know what you think!

golden matzo ball soup

golden matzo ball soup

Last month, when I was diagnosed with a rare facial nerve condition and couldn’t really chew much, my mind’s eye saw nothing but matzo ball soup. It saw a rich, golden broth with fluffy filling floaters so very tender on the teeth. How you like that alliteration? Anyway, I couldn’t make it. Matzo ball soup needs your head on straight (okay, maybe a little straight) and all the heart you can muster. (Seriously, all).

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Speaking of hearts, Dan got me a quart of it from PJ Bernstein near my place, with a side of mash and mushroom gravy, and for a split moment, the love of it transformed pain into pure happiness. Which didn’t last as long as I liked. Pain hit me that same night, real bad. Meds that were given to me weren’t working, and even though Dan had just traveled to me from Brooklyn, he hopped back on a train to get me stronger pills that were once prescribed to him. And guess what? When he returned, with meds, he also carried a bag full of food. When I asked what it was, he told me he had no clue. His mom handed the goods to him hoping it’ll make me feel better. Aaaaand…

It was matzo ball soup.

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I don’t know how she knew what I needed, but I felt so touched by this and now this soup will forever be my one true medicine. I sipped and gently chewed for a week.

Now let’s get to the recipe. When I bought a pint of this from PJ Bernstein last week, I freaked the hell out when I saw that it was $10. Obviously I needed to make my own, especially since I was diagnosed last night at the hospital with ANOTHER nerve condition. Who needs a hug? This girl. But I’m willing to share some love with you, too.

Why golden? Turmeric. I’m putting it in everything right now because I need all the healing. But the matzo balls GLOW so beautifully, and the ginger, nutmeg, dill adds some serious flavor. No boring floaters here!

for the broth

-3 lb free-range, organic whole chicken
-enough cold water to cover chicken
-1 tbs kosher salt
-1 large onion, skin on, halved if necessary
-3 garlic cloves
-2 celery stalks
-2 carrots
-1 parsnip
-2 bay leaves
-a combination of herbs you might already have, about 6 sprigs total (parsley, dill, cilantro, thyme, oregano)
-1/2 tbs peppercorns
-1 cup flavorful chicken or veggie stock for later*

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Keep at a slow simmer from beginning to end, for about 2 1/2 hours. Skim off the top every chance you get so that the end result is a clearer and cleaner broth. I don’t welcome cloudiness when already feeling blue, ya know?

*The broth will reduce a little with time, so I like to keep a cup of chicken or vegetable stock nearby to add to it. Others just add more water, but I find that this gives it more flavor. Use a chicken or veggie bouillon if you’d like…I won’t tell on you. (I like the Better than Bouillon paste shhhhhhh).

Discard all veggies and herbs, and place the chicken in a separate bowl. Save it for another dish, or shred breasts and add it to your soup later on. You can also pour it through a fine mesh, but it’s okay if you don’t want to get too fancy.

for the matzo balls makes about 8 medium-sized (double recipe for more)

-2 eggs
-2 tbs chicken broth
-2 tbs schmaltz (chicken fat), melted
-1 1/2 tbs fresh ginger, peeled and grated
-a heaping 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
-1/4 tsp salt and some freshly cracked pepper
-pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
-1/2 cup matzo meal, unsalted
-1 1/2 tbs fresh dill, chopped (or cilantro, parsley)

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs along with the ginger. Add everything else and stir til well combined. Pop it in the fridge for at least 1 hour, uncovered.

When ready, gently form balls, being careful as to not packing them tightly. You’ll want to barely touch them so that they remain a bit light and airy.

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Place them into the broth that is gently boiling, along with some fresh carrots and one celery stick, both chopped into 1″ pieces. Cook for about 35-40 minutes.

Serve with more fresh dill. Noodles are also an option. I made less matzo balls because I knew my mom would love noodles as well. OH, and if you’re into beets…the salad I made to go with it was rrreal good.

5 small roasted beets, 1/3 cup of barley, cooked in about 1 1/2 cup simmering water. Lots of fresh dill and parsley, about 1 cup. Lemon and olive oil dressing, salt and pepper, chopped pistachios.

a light rice noodle soup for a summer day (or any day)

a light rice noodle soup for a summer day (or any day)

No surprise here! My heart belongs to any farmers market wherever I go, and since Englewood, Fl doesn’t have one this time of year, I had to make the most of it in Venice, Fl on the only Saturday I’d be around. Which, at first, didn’t sound very promising as I was walking from farmstand to farmstand. Very few vendors (which is okay!). I still managed to nab the last of the blueberries, tomatoes, and happily nabbed apriums, pink-hued garlic, and tiny red onions. Which, btw, sat very pretty in my newest one-of-a-kind whitewashed bowl I found later that day.

But then, on our way to the parking lot, I spotted Maria from Fresh Harvest farm, a wonderful woman I met a year ago at Englewood farmers market with a farmstand I fell in love with. I was pretty much jumping for joy. Now I’m heading back with ubes (purple yams), lemongrass, young luffas, green onions that are a mmmaybe a few feet long, water spinach, and the most insanely beautiful ginger (or galangal!?) I’ve ever tasted. They are floral and delicate and I’m pretty sure it’s not ginger but galangal. Ginger’s cousin.

Who would think to enjoy a bowl of soup on a Florida afternoon? This girl. These ingredients were meant to cook slowly, together, with delicate rice noodles. I was going to top it with slices of Dan’s long hot green chili peppers that traveled with me from Brooklyn, but to make this heartier, I used them to spice up some roasted chickpeas, which is now officially how I’ll always top my rice noodle soups. The crunch is fannnntastic!

Let’s make the chickpeas first.

for the chickpeas
pre heat your oven to 400

-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1/2 tsp cumin seeds
-1 small green chili, sliced
-tbs lemon juice
-1/2 tsp grated galangal (optional)
-salt, to taste
-generous drizzle of olive oil

Place everything on a sheet pan, tossing so that the chickpeas or coated. Roast for about 20 minutes, or til the chickpeas have browned and crisped up.

Now for the rice noodle soup

-1 1/2 tbs garlic, 2-3 cloves, minced
-2 tbs galangal (or ginger), peeled and grated, about a couple of inches
-2 green onions, sliced, greens divided from whites
-1 oz dried shitake
-4 cups water
-4 cups veggie or beef stock
-5″ lemongrass, smashed
-about 2 cups trimmed water spinach, or regular spinach (optional)
-bean sprouts, sliced red onion, crispy chickpeas
-4 oz rice noodle, cooked separately, or 1-1 1/2oz per person
-salt and pepper, to taste

In a pot under medium heat, saute garlic, galangal, and the white ends of the green onions for a couple of minutes. You’re reserving the green, sliced tops for serving. Then add your stock, water, shitakes, and lemongrass. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or til mushrooms are fully hydrated. Spoon them out and slice.

Add water spinach as soon as you turn off the heat. At this point, give it a good taste. Feel free to add other flavors, such as soy sauce, chili pastes, fresh lime juice, etc. I kept mine simple and light. Keep in mind that the chickpeas are when an additional spice comes in.

Serve immediately as the chickpeas lose their crispiness over time when sitting in broth. Which shouldn’t be a problem. A bowl of this in front of anyone and it’s gone in minutes.

Next up…what I did with apriums, blueberries, and more galangal. Can’t wait! Right now, I’m just enjoying another bowl as I write up the recipe for the sweets.

Syrian Meatball Stew with Baby Zucchini

When a friend goes out into his garden to harvest seeds just for you, the gratitude is unreal. I happily carried a small jar of fresh coriander plucked right before my eyes from their cilantro-flowers, from Corona to the Upper East Side, thinking of all the dishes I’d love to add them to.

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This Syrian stew, for starters. Even though the seeds are not something you have to have to make this stew happen, it’s something I did have and it made beautiful, floral sense to use them alongside orange peels and fresh tomatoes and delicately spiced meatballs.

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Let’s not act surprised to see orange peels in this pot. The combination of spiced tomato broth with citrus and floral undertones will always be my thing. You can omit them if you’d like, but why not give it a try? I’ve seen you over there skipping that part in 90 percent of my recipes (I’m laughing). And as for the zucchini, I usually stuff them with this meat and rice mixture (hashu), but look at how tinyyyy these are.

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Baby zucchini is not only adorable, but they are adorable, less watery, less seedy, less all-the-things I don’t really like about zucchini, and sometimes they come with their blossoms attached. You don’t even have to core them! What? But please, using the full-grown guys is also okay for this recipe if you’re not stumbling upon the babies at your local farmers market. I actually found some packaged at Trader Joe’s the other day, and see them often at organic grocery stores. Now on to the recipe:

for the Hashu (spiced ground meat with rice)

-1 pound grass fed ground beef
-1/4 c dill, chopped
-1/4 c parsley, minced
-1/3 c basmati rice
-1 spring onion/scallion, sliced then chopped, or 1 sm onion finely chopped
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tsp allspice or baharat
-1/2 tsp aleppo pepper
-1/4 tsp cinnamon

for the stew

-1 tsp cumin seeds
-1/2 tsp fresh coriander seeds, crushed (optional)
-olive oil, enough to lightly coat pot
-1 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
-3 long strips of zest from an orange
-fresh sprigs of oregano (optional)
-1/2 tsp tomato paste
-8 oz can tomato sauce
-about 2 1/2 cups water or stock*
(this thickens into a stew-like consistency so if you’d like a loose broth, add more water)
-baby zucchini or core larger ones and slice
-1 large potato, peeled and diced

1. Make your spiced meat mixture, being careful not to overmix.

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2. Shape them into small balls, which will give you about 25-28. Set aside while you start up the sauce.

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3. Under low heat, gently toast the cumin seeds for about a minute, then add a long drizzle of olive oil. Turn up the heat to medium and add your chopped tomatoes, orange peels, tomato paste, fresh coriander seeds, oregano, Aleppo pepper, and saute for a couple of minutes before adding your tomato sauce and water/stock. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Add your meatballs, gently stirring occasionally. After about 15 minutes, add your potatoes. 5 minutes later, before you turn off your pot, you’ll add your baby zucchini. The meatballs cook through within 30 minutes, any longer and they’ll be tough.

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The sauce thickens with time and I think a piece of bread to sop it all up would be magic. Add some fresh herbs and enjoy. Let me know if you end up cooking with orange zest so I can hug you from here. It doesn’t take much to make my day. ❤

mexican corn chowder

mexican corn chowder

Sitting at the corner table in Estia’s Little Kitchen with Connie, a spoonful of corn chowder in my mouth, I’m immediately taken back to my previous home in Queens. A burst of heat and plenty of cilantro in the broth is exactly how I enjoyed Momma Lupe’s soups. I called a gentleman over and asked in a single word, “tomatillos?” And in a single word returned,“poblanos.”Again I was back in a little kitchen of my own, in another time and place, where sounds of the blender filled the room as poblanos and cilantro became one, beautiful green.

Gratitude to this garden-to-table restaurant where everyone was friendly and most likely family, for allowing me a taste of memory. Our waiting area was the best wait I’ve ever experienced in my life. They serve iced coffee in a truck out back where they are currently growing many lettuce greens and herbs, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes. Check out that dragonfly chillin’ on a garlic scape. We walked around til our names were called and we made sure we would return before heading back into the city.

Inspired by their chowder (I had never seen a green corn chowder, have you?), I made my own and I am loving every morning, afternoon, and night, with a bowl of this. It’s good hot and room temp, probably even cold. It goes perfectly with an egg, avocado, a sprinkle of cotija, crispy tortillas. To make it a bit light, I use coconut milk instead of cream and I leave out potatoes. I also grilled the ingredients to get that summer flavor I love.

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Mexican Corn Chowder, serves 4-5 (double up for more)

-1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
-4 ears of sweet corn
-2 big poblanos, deseeded if you like less heat
-1/2 tbs coconut oil
-1 small spanish onion, diced
-3 garlic cloves or scapes, chopped
-1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
-1 cup cilantro, tightly packed, stems okay
-1/2 cup basil
-13.5 oz can organic coconut milk
-3 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
-cotija, cilantro, avocado, egg (serving suggestions)

Spend about 12 minutes grilling your poblanos, 6 minutes a side.

Spend about 10 minutes grilling your corn, turning occasionally. I actually grilled 3 out of 4. The un-grilled one I cut into 1-inch pieces and put them directly into the pot. But feel free to grill ’em all!

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Once they’ve cooled down enough to handle, stand each ear of corn into a bowl and cut kernels off of them. Slice your poblanos.

Take about half of the kernels and put them into a food processor along with the poblanos.

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Blend for a few seconds then add your cilantro and basil. Continue to blend til it reaches desired consistency. I prefer mine not pureed.

In a pot, warm up your coconut oil and saute your onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin seeds for about a minute. Then add the green mixture along with the rest of the kernels and 1-inch pieces, saute for another minute. Stir in your coconut milk and stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes. It doesn’t take long!

Enjoy ❤ Corn is making their summer appearance now but soon, it’ll be EV-ERY-WHERE.

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lentil and sweet plantain chorizo soup

This was on the very top of my list of older recipes I needed to revisit. And since every new viewer lately has been turning to it, it was time for a new look.

Using odds and ends from the fridge, I whipped up something I had to jot down and share with you–right after putting the spoon down. It’s seriously GOOD. It’s also a reminder as to how my blog got its name. Cook with what you already have, with a sort of witchery, going with your gut and, how Frank O’Hara would put it, on your nerve.

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This soup is a combination of spicy, savory, and sweet. You probably already have some of these ingredients at home and if not, it’s still pretty easy and inexpensive to get. Pick yellow plantains that are heavily black-spotted if you like them more on the sweet side like I do. Not entirely black, though. That kind of ripeness turns to mush when cooked.

We’re currently growing a lot of oregano, both Greek and Italian, and that’s the perfect herb to use when involving chorizo. I’ve found beautiful bundles of them at the farmers market yesterday so check out your local market, too. Garlic scapes went into this batch which made this even easier to put together. Yay to no peeling garlic cloves! I’m grateful for easy today seeing that I woke up with flu-like symptoms. I’m adding extra hot pepper to this baby in hopes it’ll heal me!

Lentil and Sweet Plantain Chorizo Soup (serves 4)

-7 oz fresh chorizo, 2 links
-1 small onion, diced
-3 garlic cloves or garlic scapes, chopped
-1 large carrot, sliced
-1 corn on the cob, kernels only (optional)
-1/2 cup red lentils
-5 cups chicken broth (more depending on how brothy you like it)
-1 tsp fresh oregano
-1/4 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp hot paprika or other red pepper
-1 sweet plantain, halved and sliced
-cilantro, handful, for serving
-sliced red cabbage, for serving (optional)
-salt n pepper to taste

Remove chorizo from its casing and crumble onto a skillet that’s under med-high heat. Stir and crumble some more with a wooden spoon. After about 8 minutes, remove crumbled chorizo from pan and place onto a paper towel to absorb some of it’s oil.

Return pan to medium heat and saute onions, garlic, and carrots for a couple of minutes. If there wasn’t enough chorizo oil left in the pan, use a little olive oil to saute them with. Now add your lentils, corn, broth, oregano, cumin and hot paprika. Simmer til lentils are cooked through. Add the sweet plantain and cilantro. Stir in the crumbled chorizo, cook for another 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Variations
If you don’t have (or don’t like!) chorizo, give hot Italian sausage a try. Want it to be a heartier bowl of soup? Serve it with avocado. And if you happen to have split peas but not red lentils, use that instead! I love how both lose their shape and become very much part of the broth.

Let me know what you think!