3 slices (3 ounces) cooked bacon, sausage, ham or pancetta cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 Tbl olive oil
1 lg onion, chopped fine
2 medium carrots, peeled an chopped medium
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 bay leaf
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 cup (7 oz) lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
5 oz or more of fresh spinach or kale (I like to use double!)
1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven heat the olive oil, add the bacon, sausage or ham, onion and carrots, cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the lentils, salt, pepper; cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the vegetables are softened and the lentils have darkened, 8-10 minutes.
2. Uncover, increase the heat to high, add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken broth and water; bring to a boil, cover partially, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape, 30-35 minutes; discard the bay leaf.
3. Puree 3 cups of the soup in a blender until smooth, then return to the pot. (You may skip this step and keep it whole. The pureeing just makes it a little creamy.)
Stir in the vinegar and the spinach or kale; heat the soup over medium-low until hot, about 5 minutes. Serve!