Instead of starting the New Year with Black Eyed Pea soup, why not begin with a legume that has a rich history and is also high in protein. Lentils have been part of man's diet for thousands upon thousands of years. Its colors range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black. They vary in size and require not a very long cooking time. Lentils are high in protein, thus providing another wonderful source for protein in our diet.
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced carrots, or more to taste
1/2 cup finely diced celery
3-5 cloves garlic, minced, depending on taste
Kosher salt, to taste, if desired
2 bay leaves
1 pound sweet, mild or hot Italian sausage, cooked, rinsed and crumbled, optional
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced into ½" rounds, optional
1 pound diced ham, optional
16 ounces dried lentils, picked and rinsed
8 ounces peeled and chopped tomatoes
1 small can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
2 handfuls fresh spinach, rinsed and patted dry
8 cups or 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth, more if soup is too thick
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash red pepper flakes, optional
Note: You can top this soup with splashes of olive oil, sour cream or crumbled bacon or turkey bacon. Sometimes, I add a dash of smoked sweet paprika. The spices in this soup can be modified by adding more or less to your personal taste.
Note: I like to cook the Italian sausage separately and then rinse it in a colander before adding it to the soup. This keeps the fat out of the soup, but I still have the flavor of the meat in it. If adding smoked sausage or ham, I just slice it and add to soup as is.