I found this murano glass paperweight at an estate sale.

Murano glass has been made on the Italian island of Murano for centuries.  I don’t know if this paperweight was made in Italy, but it was part of a collection of fancy paperweights, so I believe it was.  I bought it thinking my kids might like it.  And they did like it — but neither of them wanted it.  So I kept it, and from time to time I pick it up and look at all the colorful ribbons of glass running through it.

I’ve always had a thing for ribbons.  When I was a nurse working at Texas Children’s Hospital, I wore colorful ribbons in my hair, which my little patients liked.  I quit wearing them when I got to law school, because being a “bowhead” was not cool — the term generally referred to the giggly undergrads who used to hang out at the law library in the hopes of . . .  well, you know.

When my daughter was little, I collected all kinds of ribbons and made tons of hairbows for her and my friends’ kids.  There’s something special about wearing a brightly-colored bow.  I still have a lot of ribbon, and one day soon I am going to have a bow-making bonanza and make loads of hairbows to send to my friends for their adorable little granddaughters.

The ribbons in the colorful paperweight inspired this recipe for Fragrant Spiced Lentil Soup with Kale Ribbons.  I love this soup, and make it several times each winter.  This soup is different than other lentil soups I’ve had — the fennel and star anise make it fragrant and a little out of the ordinary.  It’s worth the trouble to grind the spices for this soup.  Just before serving, add in a handful or two of thinly-sliced kale ribbons for color and extra nutrition.

I like lentils because they require no soaking, and cook in about 30 minutes.  Did you know that lentils are one of the oldest domesticated crops in the Old World?  (Yep, one step closer to being Cliff Clavin.)  I usually use the large brown lentils found in bags among the dried beans at the grocery store.  On this occasion, however, I used fancy schmancy Le Puy green lentils:

Look — they’re from France!

These are smaller than the lentils I usually buy, and are dark gray-green in color:

They held their shape well, and were earthier than regular lentils — more lentil-y — and made a delicious soup.

Recipe type: Soup
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 cups dried lentils
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 small bunch fresh kale, ribs removed, thinly sliced into ribbons
  1. Grind fennel seeds and star anise in a spice or coffee grinder until finely ground.
  2. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender but not browned. Add lentils, broth, water, ground spices, and bay leaf. Increase heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender but not mushy, approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Just before serving, add kale and simmer until kale is tender, but still bright green, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot..

Carrots, celery, and onions getting tender

M-m-m-m-m — soup

(Note the pretty tea towel — a gift from a special friend)

IMG_3141This batch was made with regular lentils — just as good