Lentil soup always reminds me of visits to my grandmother's house. It is one of her favorite dishes to make. She likes to cook fairly simple (probably due to an unadventurous grandfather) and lentils, unlike most other dried beans, cook up rather quickly and don't require pre-soaking. They also do a great job of absorbing other flavors. That's probably why she would always add different vegetables in the soup, especially garlic.
Lentils come in a variety of colors: brown, green, red, yellow, and even black. I found all of these colors at the Rutland Area Food Co-op but used a mix of brown and green to stick with this month's brown foods theme. As I always say, buy in the bulk section! It saves you money and you only need to buy as much as you need. It also makes it easy to try out new items you would rather not risk spending much money on.
Lentils, although not locally grown, have an amazing amount of nutritional benefit. They contain a ton of fiber that helps keep you feeling full, maintaining proper blood sugar levels and working to lower your cholesterol. Not to mention, a one cup serving contains 35% protein, 36% iron, two B-vitamins and several useful minerals. Wow!
Adding a mix of vegetables that are available locally in the bitter cold of February make this soup a really well balanced meal. Carrots, garlic and onions are all found at the market and co-op right now. The combination is great because it's the base for a number of soups, not just this one. Take a look back to last fall's soup theme and you'll see it's true.I could also see potatoes working well here if you felt inclined. And hey, if you leave the skin on, they're brown too.
I find that tomatoes add a nice depth to lentil soup as well. Fortunately, I still have a few jars of tomatoes left that I canned back in the summer. This recipe, from Mollie Katzen is straightforward with no exciting frills. You literally just throw everything in the pot, there's no sauteing of the vegetables required. I think my grandmother would approve, though I'm sure she would doctor it up and make it her own in some way. Go ahead and do the same. Add those potatoes, or rice, and maybe some winter greens too.
Lentil Soupserves 6+
- 3 cups dry lentils
- 7 cups water or broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp salt
- 6 to 8 medium cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 1 tsp basil
- 1/2 tsp. thyme
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 2-3 medium tomatoes, chopped or 1 can diced
- red wine vinegar
Place lentils, water, bay leaf and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 - 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prep your veggies.
Add vegetables (except tomatoes), the herbs, and pepper. Let simmer, partially covered, for another 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes. Then serve hot, with a drizzle of vinegar on top.
Recipe adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen