I met my husband by pure happenstance. We were both quietly circumnavigating the perimeter of a rowdy party that neither of us had really planned on or wanted to attend. Long story short--I believe in fate and things happening for a reason. And so when I spotted chestnuts in the market last week, I was intrigued. Chestnuts are a rare commodity. You find them hidden away at farm stands--they're the market wallflowers.
According to Chinese dietary principles they strengthen the spleen and kidney chi and tonify jing. Lucky me! A match made in heaven, or earth. I bought all that I could carry, went home in the mood for some culinary exploration, and am now quite smitten. Chestnuts do require a bit of work; their shells are stubborn, to say the least. The inside meat, however, is lovely--sweet and nuanced--and not unlike the man I married. Well worth the effort.
3/4 lb fresh chestnuts or 2 cups dried and rehydrated chestnuts
1-1/2 cups green lentils
5-1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons flaked sea salt, plus more for seasoning
2 bay leaves
3 small celery stalks, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1/2 bunch kale, or enough to yield 3 cups shredded
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
3 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil
Score chestnuts with tip of sharp knife; little X's work best. Place in deep saucepan and cover with a few inches of water. Set over high heat and let boil about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, cover with warm water (nuts are harder to peel when they dry), and peel, removing shell and dark membrane around flesh. All of this takes some patience (see above).
Combine chestnuts, lentils, water, salt, bay leaves, celery, and carrots in a soup pot. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until most of liquid has evaporated and both lentils and chestnuts are tender. Stir in shredded kale and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until greens are wilted.
Whisk together mustard, vinegar, and oil. Pour into soup pot. Adjust seasoning with more sea salt (a bit more vinegar too if desired) and serve.