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Author Notes: This recipe originally came from the Los Angeles Times Magazine in the 90s. I think it was an adaptation even then. In the 15 or so years I've been making it I've fiddled around with it a fair amount. This is just an amazing soup, and can be customized in many different ways. I'm not big on ham hocks so I swap out a package of finely cubed smoked tofu instead. You can (and I often do) substitute sweet potatoes or parsnips for the carrots and veggie broth for the chicken. Red bell peppers are also good. Toasting the cumin before putting it in the soup adds a lovely depth to the soup. And the house smells amazing while it's cooking. This is my fall and winter go-to soup - every year. —julieoj
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 4-5 leeks, whites only, chopped
- 2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
- 3-4 carrots, chopped
- 3 teaspoons ground cumin, toasted
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound lentils, rinsed
- 2 smoked ham hocks or ham bone
- 10 cups stock, chicken or vegetable
- 1 pound fresh spinach, chopped
- 2 lemons, juiced
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil and saute leeks, celery and carrots over medium heat until soft. If you're using sweet potatoes or parsnips put them in here.
- Toast cumin in a different pan until it starts to smell fragrant.
- Add cumin and minced garlic to the vegetables and cook another 2-3 minutes.
- Add lentils, ham hocks (or smoked tofu) and stock and bring to a boil. After it boils, lower heat, cover the pot part way and simmer for an hour.
- Remove ham hock and shred meat, removing the fat and gristle. Reserve meat.
- Puree half of the soup either with an immersion or regular blender.
- Add meat, spinach, lemon juice, salt and pepper and simmer another 15 minutes.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe for Autumn Soup