Collards and bay leaves in lentil soup*

A perfect winter meal.

Lentil Soup
(makes a big pot, enough for at least 8)

1 T. vegetable oil (I use canola)
2 onions, chopped
3 cups chopped collard greens
6 stalks celery, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
1 lb. lentils
8 cups stock, water, or a combination
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
6 bay leaves
salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and balsamic vinegar to taste

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and collards, and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything’s wilted, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the carrots, lentils, stock, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Bring the soup to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook until the lentils are done and the soup is the way you like it. (See NOTE, below)

Add the salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.

This soup benefits from bacon or smoked ham. If you want to make a non-vegetarian version, you can start by cooking a few strips of bacon and using some of the bacon fat to cook the vegetables (crumble the cooked bacon and add it to the soup). Alternatively, add a smoked ham hock when you add the liquids and, when the soup is almost done, take out the hock, remove and chop the meat, and add it to the soup.

NOTE: On cooking time. I like this soup to cook for quite some time, so I add the tomatoes when I add the lentils (tomatoes, and anything acidic, will increase cooking time for lentils). I cooked this soup for almost two hours.