French lentil and butter bean soup with tarragon and spinach

French lentil and butter bean soup with tarragon

French lentil and butter bean soup with tarragon

Reverend Gary Davis was born in Laurens, South Carolina in 1896. He was born partially blind, and became fully blind as an infant. He was the only one of eight children to survive to adulthood. His father was killed when he was ten, his mother didn’t treat him well, so he went to live with his grandmother. He taught himself guitar, and invented a way of playing with many voices at once. In the twenties and thirties he was active in the Piedmont blues scene, and made some recordings. He became a Baptist minister. He moved to New York City in the forties, and performed as a street musician for a while before being rediscovered during the folk revival and becoming very popular with lots of rock stars of the day. All of these are facts straight from the wikipedia, but what the wikipedia can’t tell you is that his music is phenomenal. Such a perfect combination of exquisite technical skill and deeply sweet soulfulness. Such a perfect balance of heavy darkness, which we recognize as part of everybody’s life, and of the hope and humor that make it bearable. Such strange poetry to describe feelings that we all have. I’m flabbergasted (to use one of Malcolm’s vocabulary words) by his music, and by the fact that I haven’t discovered him earlier. I must have heard a song here or there, but I couldn’t have been paying attention, because I wasn’t stopped in my tracks and incapable of doing anything but listening, as I have been all week, steeped in his music.

I’m so obsessed with Reverend Gary Davis at the moment that I wanted to make this Sunday interactive playlist all about him. But we obviously need a bit of diversity, so I decided to pick something that he’d fit into nicely. As well as many chilling and beautiful songs about death, sin, and the afterlife, he’s got some beauties about life and love. And he has quite a few versions of Candyman. This being valentine’s day weekend, I decided that was the direction to take. So this week’s Sunday interactive playlist is on the subject of sweets. Of course songs about candy are never really about candy, are they?

This soup was perfect for a winter’s night. Flavorful but simple. Hearty but brothy and bright, and with the springlike greenness of tarragon. Not at all hard to make.

Here’s a link to your interactive playlist. Add what you like, or leave a comment and I’ll add it through the week.

2 T butter (or olive oil)
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t rosemary, chopped or crumbled
pinch of hot pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup french lentils
1/3 cup white wine
1 can butter beans, rinsed and drained
2 packed cups baby spinach, washed and chopped quite fine
2 T fresh tarragon, chopped
juice of half a lemon (or to taste)
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. When it starts to bubble, add the shallots, garlic, rosemary and bay leaves, and stir and fry until the garlic starts to brown. Add the lentils, stir to coat, and cook until they’re sizzling. Add the wine, and cook for a few minutes until it’s reduced and syrupy. Add about four cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about twenty minutes, until the lentils are nearly cooked (they’ll still have a bit of texture, you don’t want them completely mushy.)

Add the butter beans and spinach, and cook until everything is heated through and the spinach is wilted. Add the tarragon, lemon, salt and pepper, and serve!


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