It never fails. When one of my sons issues a last-minute request for a friend to stay for dinner, it never seems to be mac and cheese or spaghetti night. On the heels of enduring black bean spaghetti stir-fry—which went over shockingly well–one special friend recently appeared as I was ladling lentil soup into bowls.
I have enough history with this friend to know that his favorite soup is a decadently creamy and cheesy tomato variety that he frequently orders at a favorite local restaurant. So a legume-based soup with its fair share of vegetables had the potential to send him back to his house for a better option.
As it turns out, I had been tweaking my lentil soup recipe in anticipation of Get Soup! Give Soup!, an annual campaign run by Isaac’s Restaurants throughout the months of January and February. All of Isaac’s 18 locations choose a soup kitchen, shelter, food bank, or other non-profit that helps the hungry and homeless in their community. Then, for every 100 cups of soup sold, a gallon of soup is donated to the chosen organization. (They tally the number of cups in bowls and takeout orders, so count those, too.)
Since the campaign’s inception in 2014, 2,350 gallons of soup have been donated across South Central Pennsylvania. Some stores are able to donate soup to more than one partner thanks to the tremendous customer support of this campaign. Importantly, the soup is distributed on a weekly basis throughout these cold winter months, when so many really need a hot, wholesome meal.
As the folks at Isaac’s were planning for this annual event last fall, they asked me if I would be willing to provide a soup recipe for them to feature on their menu. The primary request was that the new soup be healthy and hearty. Could I maximize protein without adding empty calories? Specifically, the hope was that each bowl or cup would provide at least 10 or 5 grams of protein, respectively, and that wholesome ingredients like lentils and kale could be incorporated in a delicious way. More than ever, restaurant patrons are seeking out healthy menu items that leave them feeling full, and this desire is typically heightened in the post-holiday season.
In our house, the popularity of this filling soup has less to do with grams of protein and more to do with taste. And I’m happy to report that my son’s friend agreed. When I asked him if he might order it at Isaac’s, where it will be a menu feature over the next few months, he said he just might. Luckily though, whether he chooses his favorite cheesy tomato soup or this Tuscan lentil option, people who truly need a hot meal will benefit.
To help support Isaac’s Get Soup! Give Soup! partnerships, simply enjoy a serving of your favorite soup—or this new-to-the-menu Tuscan lentil option–at any of the restaurant’s 18 locations. All soup sales, whether dine-in or takeout, will be applied to this effort now through the end of February.
Yield: 6-8 servings
- Olive oil for pot
- 1/2 pound Italian pork or turkey sausage (removed from casings)
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (could use a mix of dried oregano, thyme, basil, and parsley)
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (14-1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained (could use Italian seasoned)
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup dry brown lentils, rinsed and drained
- 1 large potato (8-10 ounces), chopped (may substitute sweet potato or use a combination; no need to peel)
- 2 cups lightly packed chopped kale (tough ribs removed; may substitute greens of choice)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a few good turns of the pepper mill
- 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- For serving: freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Add just enough oil to a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot to lightly coat (about 2-3 teaspoons), and place over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, crumbling as you go.
- Add the onion to the sausage and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until beginning to soften. Stir in the carrots, celery, garlic, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper. Sauté for a minute or until the garlic is fragrant but not browned. Add the tomatoes with their juices and cook for another minute or two. Then stir in the chicken broth, lentils, and potato.
- Increase the heat in order to bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for approximately 40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape. Stir every 10-15 minutes or so.
- Stir in the chopped greens, salt and balsamic vinegar. Cook for 3-4 more minutes, or until the greens have softened to your liking.
- Ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Nutritional information based on 8 servings: 14.9 grams protein, 9.4 grams fiber, 8.4 grams total fat, 240 calories, 681 mg potassium, 111% Vitamin A, 58% Vitamin C, 17% Iron, also high in thiamin