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Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.
Today: Pantry soup, with lentils, sausage and kale.
Despite a lot of talk about the importance of planning ahead now that we have a baby to feed, I sometimes find myself at home alone on a weeknight, Clara's food supply dwindling, not having ordered groceries. On those nights, I make pantry soup.
Pantry soup depends on beans or lentils as a base, some Pomi tomatoes, a little sausage if we have it in the freezer, and whatever half-wilted vegetables stare up at me accusingly when I open the crisper drawer.
A variation centering around lentils, kale and chicken sausage happens to be one of Clara's favorites. She likes to pick up the pieces of sausage and carrot with her fingers and feed herself, while I take advantage of her open mouth to pop in spoonfuls of soup.
Feel free to improvise here: If you don't have lentils, use black eyed peas; if you don't have kale, use spinach (frozen is fine if that's all you've got); if you don't have carrots, give parsnips a whirl. Most importantly, don't sweat it -- pantry soup is meant to solve your problems, not add to them.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for browning the sausages
1 tablespoon bacon fat (or add another tablespoon of olive oil)
1 cup chopped carrots
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups French green lentils, rinsed
28 ounces canned chopped tomatoes (I use tetra-pack)
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
4 chicken sausages (or substitute another kind of sausage)
1 1/2 cups chopped kale
Photos by James Ransom