Jimmy’s Lentil Soup

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From left to right: Douglas Gage, Chris Wheeler, Kevin Hogan, James Shore

I know we’re not supposed to cry over spilled milk, but what about soup? Last week my high school sweetheart died in the Arizona Sweatlodge Accident – an event that surprisingly rocked my world. I am devastated by this loss, saddened by the tragedy, angered by the senselessness, and in mourning over the separation of a father from his children, a husband from his wife, a son from his mother, a brother from his siblings and a friend from us all.

The last time I saw Jim was in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1995 when Jeff and I returned from the Peace Corps. Jeff and I decided to try life in the American Southwest, and my old friend from high school happened to be living there. Jim arranged for us to stay with a friend of his while we looked for an apartment, and on one hot desert summer evening, we had a party. Jimmy made lentil soup.

I don’t really remember much from that night except for a few small details. I remember watching Jim cut the carrots with a big chef’s knife at the kitchen table. He was fastidious about his work. Each dice of the carrot was made to be the same size, and there was no hurry to get it done. While he chopped, I remember Jim explaining how the “Swamp Cooler” worked by using water vapor to cool homes in the desert, and I remember his hair was buzzed really short. The last time I had seen him in Minneapolis, his hair was long – mid back long. I don’t remember the jokes, but I recall the way he would toss his head to the ceiling and laugh.

We shared three years together, and despite the fact that it didn’t work out, he extended kindness to me long after we broke up. I have a locker full of memories of days spent with my high school sweetheart, but in front of me, a simple bowl of soup that from this day forward will remind me of my last night with James Scott Shore.

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Jimmy’s Lentil Soup – Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 pound lentils, washed
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 cups sweet potato, diced
  • 5 medium tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8-12 cups water

Directions: 1) Saute the onion until it becomes translucent then add the garlic and jalapeno. Saute just long enough to smell the garlic. 2) Add all the other ingredients except the cilantro and sweet potato. 3) Cook the soup until the lentils are almost soft then add the sweet potato. Cook just until the sweet potato is tender and add cilantro just before serving.

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Vegetarian Chili Fall ’09

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I love chili, and it is often a staple in our house during the winter months. I labeled this one “09” because I never make it the same way twice. It’s also one of Max’s favorite soups, and you know by now, if he makes a request for any of my cooking, I oblige. Here’s one he and I whipped up using two kinds of beans I had in the freezer and a bunch of CSA tomatoes, corn, carrots and onions. I usually use lots of peppers and like to add zucchini or sweet potatoes, but right now I am focused on using what’s in the box.

Spices for chili are also very flexible. You can use the dried chipotle, or any hot pepper. Sometimes I use pre-made chili powder spices, but often I just add cumin, pulverized dried, hot peppers and salt. You can add the spices last and play around until you get a flavor you like.

Chili Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 8-10 carrots, diced
  • 8 cups cooked beans (we used 4 cups black and 4 cups white)
  • 8-12 tomatoes, pureed
  • 6 ears of corn
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 Tbs. dried and powdered chipotle pepper
  • 1 Tbs. cumin
  • 1 Tbs. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano

Directions:

Microwave the corn in the husk for five minutes. Remove it and let it cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, saute the diced onions until they are translucent and add the minced garlic. Cook for a few seconds just until the garlic releases its fragrance. At this point the corn should be cool enough to remove the husks and cut the kernels from the cob. Add all other ingredients and let the soup simmer for about twenty minutes until the flavors are nicely melded. The beauty of any soup is the garnish and with chili it’s fun to be creative. We like ours with chunks of cheddar, avocado or a dollop of crema, and there must be the crunch factor so we eat it with either crackers or chips.