2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 cups dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
1/2 pound coarsely chopped honey-cured ham
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups peeled, seeded and finely chopped tomatoes
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
In a 6-quart soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and continue sauteing until softened, about 5 minutes longer.
Add the lentils, 1/2 cup of the ham, the stock, tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially, and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Remove from the heat.
Process the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulsing until the soup is partially pureed but still has plenty of texture.
Return the soup to the pot if necessary. Add the remaining ham, the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, the thyme, vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes longer. Taste for seasoning.
To serve, ladle the soup into soup bowls and garnish with the tomato and parsley.