Suffice it is to say this entire experience (my aunt had been hospitalized since June with an infection that resulted in near complete organ shut down and she almost died) has taken a toll on my mom. When we spoke last night--my mom had a quiet moment--she suggested I share her lentil soup recipe. It's good -- but then nearly all of my mom's recipes are and it's quick -- although my strong suggestion is to make it the night before, let it cool down completely before you put it in the refrigerator and serve the next day. (Never cover hot soup or even warm soup in the refrigerator)
1 cup of lentils (brown)
6 tbsp of olive oil (btw my mother does not use virgin or extra virgin olive oil)
1 stalk celery including celery tops (finely chopped)
2 carrots (medium) finely chopped
8 cups of low sodium vegetable stock or 4 cups stock and 4 cups water
1 glove garlic minced
1/2 cup plum tomates (canned plum tomatoes work well)
In a large saucepan heat the oil. Add the onion to the heated oil and cook gently until it softens. Add the celery, celery tops, carrots and garlic and cook for 5 or more minutes until slightly soft. Add the lentils and stir to coat the lentils in the oil and vegetables.
Add the tomatoes and the vegetable stock (or vegetable stock and water) and bring to a boil. Once boiling lower the heat, cover and simmer for about one hour --until the lentils are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For the non-vegetarians and for extra luck according to Italian superstition add bits of chopped dried sausage (pepperoni). I've been a vegetarian for over 35 years so I cannot offer an opinion about this option--sorry. My mom's been making it without sausage for at least 35 years --but she said she remembers that the sausage option is worth a try. So experiment away.
Again -- make this soup a day ahead and the flavors will mix nicely and the soup will thicken. For those of you that are not "No Carb" obsessed serve the soup with crusty Italian bread.
Two last thoughts -- Italians eat lentil soup on New Year's Day. Like a number of cultures New Year's Day meals -- generally consisting of beans, black eyed peas, chick peas etc. will bring luck and prosperity in the new year.
And my mom learned this recipe from her oldest sister -- my Aunt Amelia. Aunt Amelia was perhaps the greatest cook any of us--including my mom--have ever experienced. When my mother is asked about her sister who died many years ago all she says is that she misses her ever day. Aunt Amelia made lentils often but always on New Year's Day -- we traveled from where ever we were to join her on that day. Thus, the name: Aunt Amelia's Lentil Soup.