Since the cauliflower only cooks in the soup for a short period of time, the vegetable doesn't develop that overwhelming flavor often associated with it. The flavor of bacon, though, comes through loud and clear.
6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
1 onion, chopped
1 cup lentils
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crumbled
1 bay leaf
9 cups water
1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into small florets (about 1 quart)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
How to Make It
In a large pot, cook the bacon strips until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat or, if there's less than 2 tablespoons, add enough olive oil to make up the amount.
Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the lentils, salt, pepper, rosemary, bay leaf, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower and lentils are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Remove the bay leaf.
Stir the parsley into the soup. Serve the soup topped with the bacon.
Variation: Substitute broccoli florets for the cauliflower. Add them after the lentils have cooked for about twenty-five minutes and then simmer until the broccoli is tender, five to ten minutes longer.
Wine Recommendation: Look to South Africa's native pinotage grape for something a little unusual to accompany this savory soup. Pinotage produces supple, spicy red wines with a smoky tang and a delicious berry fruitiness.