Lentil and Barley Soup
feeds many

1 pound lentils, washed and drained
1/2 cup (4 ounces) pearl barley
4 quarts light chicken or beef stock
2 hot Italian sausages (about 5 ounces total), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbsp herbes du provence (not having any, I substituted plain old Italian seasoning)
1 tbsp salt
1 leek (8 ounces), cut into 1/2 inch pieces and washed (about 3 cups)
1 large onion (8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2 carrots (6 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
5 large cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and coarsely chopped (2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp Tobasco hot pepper sauce (optional)
1/2 cup grated swiss cheese (optional, I used parmesan)

Place all the ingredients except the optional Tabasco and cheese in a large kettle, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and cook gently for 1 1/2 hours.

Emulsify the cooked soup with a handheld immersion blender for 8 to 10 seconds to make the mixture somewhat creamy. Alternatively, place blend 2 cups of the soup in a blender and return to the remaining soup. (I never got around to this part, although I kept meaning too, but it tasted good regardless).

Add the Tabasco to the soup. Serve in bowls, garnished, if desired, with the grated cheese.

Note: This soup tends to thicken as it cools. When reheating leftover soup, thin it, if necessary, by adding a little water.

-Jacques Pepin, Encore with Claudine