I'm here in the kitchen, making my Lentil & Barley Soup. Soup really got me through this winter, and in the process I discovered that my lentil soup recipe is totally fantastic with black lentils (not to be confused with French lentils, which are a little bigger and sort of a mottled green-black color...also good).
Black lentils are deceptively small, and trust me, they really pack a punch in the flavor department...kind of meaty in fact. For a lentil so small, it's quite a feat. You can find them in the bulk section of Whole Foods, where they also stock them bagged (in 1-lb. bags, perfect for this recipe) in the beans/rice aisle.
Also, leeks are truly delicious in this soup. They bring this really earthy flavor to the dish, and are fairly digestible for those who might have gastric difficulty with onions (I'm allergic to 'em, sadly). I usually throw one medium leek in this soup in place of an onion, just the leek's slim white part (minus the roots). You have to trim off the dark green leaf end and then cut the leek open lengthwise to rinse all the dirt out, and otherwise it's a snap. I use kitchen scissors instead of a paring knife for this, 'cause I'm less likely to cut my fingers off that way.
Celery is great in this recipe too (it's pretty much great in any soup recipe, come to think of it). Celery is cheap, nutritious, and can also be eaten with peanut butter as a snack, so go for it next time you're at the grocery store (btw, it goes nicely with a tall Bloody Mary...what's not to love?).
Fennel seed is what really makes this dish pop (other than the black lentils), and I wonder what would happen if I substituted fresh chopped fennel for the seed...maybe I'll try it next time I make this recipe.
I'm regretting eating the last of that delicious loaf of sourdough bread I got from Whole Foods the other day, since it would go really well with this soup! Darn. I've tried several times to make sourdough bread, and it ended in failure each time, so I now get it at the bakery when they have it. Learning to make sourdough is on my bucket list.