Lentil Soup with Roasted Portabella Mushrooms
1 pound brown or green lentils, rinsed and picked over
3 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, and minced
¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 cup dried porcini mushroom pieces (about an ounce or so)
1-1/2 cups boiling water
6-8 portabella mushroom caps (12 to 14 ounces total)
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups good-tasting vegetable stock
1 15-ounce can small-diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced thin
4 stalks celery, sliced thin
2 onions, diced
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse the porcini mushroom pieces quickly in cold water to remove visible grit. Then put them in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Cover the bowl with a dish and let it sit for 45 minutes to soften the mushrooms. Take out the soft mushroom pieces and roughly chop them.
While the oven is warming and the porcini are soaking, put the rinsed lentils in a large pot. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, a few grinds of black pepper, and 4 cups of water. Bring the lentils to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove the gills from the portabella mushrooms with a spoon. Lightly oil a baking sheet big enough to hold the mushroom caps in a single layer. Put the mushrooms on the sheet gill-side down, drizzle a little oil over them, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Then turn the mushrooms over, drizzle with a little more oil, add more salt and pepper, and continue to roast until they’re a little browned, about 20 minutes more. You want to keep them concave side up most of the time so that the juices stay inside the caps. Set the mushrooms aside to cool just a little.
When the 20 minutes are up for the lentils, add the rehydrated mushrooms, diced tomatoes (with the juice from the can) and the vegetable stock, then the carrots, onion, and celery, and at least a teaspoon of salt. Add the mushroom soaking liquid (either pour it carefully to avoid the grit in the bowl or strain it first through a coffee filter.) If the liquid doesn’t cover the vegetables, add some water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.
If there’s liquid in the roasted portabella caps, pour it into the soup pot. Slice the mushrooms about ¼-inch thick, then cut the slices in half crosswise. Add the mushrooms to the soup, and add some more water if the level is too low. Cook for another 15 minutes. The vegetables should be soft. Taste for salt and pepper, and serve hot.