Lentil Soup with Chard and Sausage

If my kitchen had an annual awards ceremony, Best Dried Pantry Staple might very well go to lentils. When I haven't got the time to soak or cook for hours on end, lentils are there for me. They cook quickly, are healthy and filling, and make for a great lunch the following day. That's why I reach for them more often than anything else (in their category), and they have permanent front row seats on their shelf. Chard could easily win, or at minimum be nominated for Most Versatile Green, as I have yet to find anything it doesn't taste good with or next to. So the combination of the two in this soup really makes for a winning performance. I'm a big fan of greens in soup. They lend a wonderful contrasting texture and really freshen up the frequently monotone, nondescript color palette that is inherent to soup. The addition of sausage takes this from really good to Wow!, but of course my veggie peeps will not be disappointed after omitting it. And on a final note, I have come to realize that, sadly, I don't cook with herbes de Provence often enough. I'm a creature of habit, and always too caught up in cumin when seasoning soups. But the spices in this dish made for a fabulous French country flavor that left me pining for a trip to southeastern France.
                    2 tablespoons olive oil
                    1 large onion, chopped
                    1 pound sausage
                    4 garlic cloves
                    1 1/2 cups lentils
                    1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
                    Kosher salt
                    1 bunch green chard

Heat the olive oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes.

Cut the sausage into 1/2" rounds. Add to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the lentils, 7 cups water, and the herbes de Provence, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add a good sprinkle of salt, and simmer until the lentils are very tender and the broth is slightly thick, about 1 hour.

Remove the tough stems from the chard and cut it crosswise into 2"-thick strips. Stir in the chard and simmer just until it wilts, about 3 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from Jeanne Kelley, Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes.

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