Lentil Soup with Ham

serves 6-8, depending on appetites.
 
Eight cups of water
2 generous teaspoons of Better than Bouillon, (vegetable or chicken flavor) or a powdered instant broth -
1/2 pound of green lentils (I use organic french lentils from natural market)
1 large onion chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 leeks, rinsed and split lengthwise, and chopped white and light green portions
3 large cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or ground red pepper flakes)
2 good sized carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves,  (or 1 teaspoon of dried)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 bay leaf
1-2 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs red wine or red wine vinegar
(don't substitute white vinegar - white wine or cider is OK and if you don't have any wine OR vinegar, just omit it)
About 1/4 cup of EVOO
Leftover Easter Ham (about 2-3 cups more or less to your preference)
Leftover Easter Ham bone
Parmesean or romano cheese for topping
 
1.  Cover the lentils with boiling water, and let them sit while you prepare the veggies.
 
2.  Put the EVOO in a large pot (The one you're going to cook the soup in) heat it, then add the leeks, shallot, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, cumin, and cook on a medium to low heat until the veggies are tender.  If they start to brown, turn the heat down a bit.    The carrots can still be a bit hard, but the oniony veggies should be tender and translucent.
 
3.  Drain the lentils. 
 
4.  Add 2 quarts of water to the pot with the veggies, along with the Better than Broth, one bay leaf, the tomato paste, the ham bone,and the lentils. Cover and simmer for at least an hour or until the lentils are tender.  You can leave it cooking on the stove for longer if you want, as many hours as you need.  Remove the ham bone and puree the soup with a hand blender to desired thickness.  Add the ham chunks, and wine, cook for about 20 minutes more, and serve..  Top with grated romano or parmesean cheese.
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