Soup's On

Meals centered around soup are homey, comforting and easy to serve--especially if you've got a crowd to feed.

In this menu, both the hearty old-fashioned lentil-and-barley soup and the cucumber salad can be made a day ahead. And each will actually improve in flavor.

The foolproof Parmesan batter bread is best served warm from the oven, but it's easy to make since it rises only once (in the pan). With very little effort, you have the great satisfaction of making fresh bread--and a wonderful aroma as it bakes.

For dessert, a homemade favorite--angel cake--flavored with maple and pecans. Serve the cake with sugared strawberries or vanilla ice cream. It's a sweet but not too rich conclusion to this simple meal.


This salad was inspired by the condiment salad served at a roadside restaurant in Indiana called the Oil Lamp. The cucumbers have a great piquant flavor and are only slightly creamy, because they are drained before serving. The sour cream that remains on them gives just the right finish to the salad. (If you have leftover salad, you'll find more collected juices each time you serve it, so always drain before serving.)


2 large English cucumbers, peeled, thinly sliced

2 small onions, minced

2/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup cider vinegar

4 teaspoons sugar

Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 teaspoons snipped fresh chives

Put sliced cucumbers in 2-quart bowl. Set aside.

Combine onions, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to taste in small bowl until well blended. Add to cucumbers and toss until well combined. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours, or up to 2 days, covered airtight.

To serve, toss salad until well mixed. Drain all liquid. Toss cucumbers with chives. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve chilled. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

90 calories; 213 mg sodium; 11 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.76 gram fiber.


The smokiness of the ham hock flavors this soup.


1 tablespoon oil

1 medium clove garlic, minced

1 medium onion, minced

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

6 cups reduced-salt chicken broth

1 1/2 cups mushrooms, trimmed, quartered

1 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed

1/4 cup medium pearl barley

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 bay leaf

1 large smoked ham hock

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce


Freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon minced parsley

Heat oil in 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring often, until onion is tender, about 4 minutes.

Add 5 cups broth, mushrooms, lentils, barley, thyme, cumin, bay leaf, ham hock and tomato paste. Bring to boil. Stir well. Simmer, covered, until lentils are tender but not all completely mushy, 60 to 70 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add remaining broth as needed. Add Worcestershire. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be refrigerated 2 days or frozen up to 3 months.

To serve, gently reheat. Add remaining broth or water as needed for consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste. Remove ham hock. Serve hot, garnished with parsley. Makes 5 to 6 main-course servings.

Each serving contains about:

315 calories; 1,091 mg sodium; 25 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 23 grams protein; 2.87 grams fiber.


This tasty bread is simple to make, much like a flat bread.


1 package dry yeast

1 1/4 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

2 tablespoons sugar

3 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Egg Glaze

1/4 cup finely grated imported Parmesan cheese

Stir yeast, water and sugar together in small bowl. Let stand until foamy.

Put flour, oregano, basil, red pepper and salt into food processor fitted with metal blade. Turn on processor. Through feed tube, slowly add yeast mixture, then oil. Continue to process dough until supple, elastic and sticking slightly to sides of work bowl, about 1 minute. Add more water or flour by teaspoons, if dough is too dry or too wet. Dough should be sticky. Alternately, use mixer fitted with dough hook until dough is kneaded, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer dough to greased 13x9-inch pan. Pat out evenly. Let stand in warm place, lightly draped with plastic wrap, until somewhat puffy but not necessarily doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

Brush surface of bread with Egg Glaze. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly over.

Bake on center oven rack at 350 degrees until lightly browned on edges, about 30 minutes. Cut into squares. Serve warm. Makes 1 (13x9-inch) bread, 12 servings.

Each serving contains about:

169 calories; 388 mg sodium; 19 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 27 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.13 gram fiber.

Egg Glaze

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put egg, salt and pepper in small bowl. Whisk until frothy.


The pecans add a little richness to this version of angel cake. The cake is still very light and especially flavorful. Be sure to use a perfectly clean bowl for beating egg whites--the slightest speck of grease will keep them from frothing.


1 1/2 cups superfine sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour

2 cups egg whites (about 16 large eggs), room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon maple extract

3/4 cups pecan pieces, toasted

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Sift 3/4 cup superfine sugar 3 times. Set aside. Sift remaining 3/4 cup superfine sugar with cake flour 3 times. Set aside.

Use mixer on low speed to beat egg whites in 4-quart bowl until frothy. Add cream of tartar and salt. Beat until whites thicken and hold shape but are still soft and moist, about 3 minutes.

Add reserved sifted sugar by tablespoons, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to high and beat until whites have increased in volume about 5 times, hold shape and are very thick, shiny and smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes more.

Gently but thoroughly fold in sugar and flour mixture in 3 batches, then maple extract and toasted pecans. Transfer batter to 10-inch tube pan. Smooth surface with spatula. Cut through batter in 10 places to break any large air pockets.

Bake on center oven rack at 375 degrees until surface is very brown and wood pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. If cake gets too brown, tent piece of foil lightly over top during last 5 minutes. Remove cake from oven and cool completely. Invert pan on counter or, if cake has risen too high, invert tube pan on empty wine bottle.

When cooled, use slim, flexible knife to loosen cake from sides, center tube and then bottom of pan. Invert onto rack. Cake keeps at room temperature up to 2 days, well covered, or can be frozen up to 3 months, wrapped airtight. Thaw at room temperature in wrapping.

To serve, press powdered sugar through fine sieve over top of cake. Makes 12 servings.

Each serving contains about:

190 calories; 140 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 30 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 0.1 grams fiber.

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