Today's offering is a pretty classic "use whatever's already in the house" recipe, and in such situations lentils are an absolute godsend because they are versatile and packed with protein. I happened to have leeks on hand, but you could easily substitute onions; for that matter you could use pretty much any vegetables you like, because another of soup's many virtues is its endless adaptability.
So get your homework done and then head into the kitchen, put on some music, fire up the old cauldron, and make this soup; your day will look a lot brighter, even with 4pm sunsets on the horizon.
Lentil, Leek and Barley Soup
~ 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 1/2 cup diced celery (one rib)
~ 3/4 cup diced carrots (about one big one)
~ 4 cups chopped leeks, thoroughly washed (two good sized leeks)
~ 1.5 tsp. kosher salt
~ 1 tsp. each: thyme, dill, rosemary, parsley
~ 2 bay leaves, whole or (my preference, but whatever) crumbled
~ A few healthy grinds of black pepper
~ 1/2 cup cheap-ass white jug wine (well, that's what we had; go ahead and use something nicer if you like)
~ 1 cup green lentils, picked over and rinsed
~ 1/2 cup pearl barley
~ 8 cups vegetable stock
~ 4 cups chopped spinach leaves
~ 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder or a good shot of hot sauce (optional, but highly recommended)
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and saute the celery over medium heat about 2 minutes.
~ Add the carrots, leeks and dry seasonings; stir to combine and cook another 5 minutes or so, until the vegetables are juust threatening to stick to the pan.
~ Raise the heat to high, deglaze the pan with the 1/2 cup white wine, then add the lentils and barley. Stir until everything is coated.
~ Add the vegetable broth, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
~ Add the chopped spinach and chipotle powder or hot sauce (if using). Cover and simmer another 15 minutes, until the lentils and barley are soft but not falling apart.
~ Remove from heat and serve with some good, crusty bread.