September 6, 2012

Lentil soup

September is upon us once again.  The summer went by fast, as it tends to do.  While I welcome the change in season and the chance to get back to a regular schedule, I'll surely miss the more carefree, relaxed, no-need-to-worry about homework/school/bedtime attitude of the summer. 

Before too long, I know I'll start craving hot comfort foods and plenty of it.  And since we cannot live by dessert alone (I certainly don't though it might seem that way from this blog!), I'm adding this lentil soup to my archives today because I know it's something I'll be looking to make again and again.
I grew up eating plenty of white rice but in the last few years, I've started experimenting with other grains and beans in the quest to eat a little healthier, with more variety (and to balance out the dessert course we're clearly having more of).  I've been exploring the worlds of brown rice, quinoa, barley, and lentils.  This particular lentil soup came about, admittedly, when I saw and bought a vacuum-packed package of precooked lentils at the market.  I know that lentils are not terribly difficult to cook - and are undoubtedly better cooked fresh at home - but I just could not stare convenience in the face and reject it. 

So with my pre-cooked lentils in hand, I scoured the web for an appealing (translation: sounds tasty and easy to make) lentil soup recipe and ended up adapting one I found on 101 Cookbooks.  I was a bit hesitant about the tomato base for a lentil soup but it turned out to be my favorite part, giving the soup plenty of zest.  Carrots, onions, plenty of kale, and, of course, the lentils, created a hearty and delicious pot of steaming soup.  Make a big pot because if you're like me, you'll have no problems polishing it off in no time.  Leftovers make for a quick lunch or dinner starter.

The great thing about soup is how adaptable it is to whatever ingredients you prefer or have on hand.  I slightly adapted this recipe from 101 Cookbooks, using pre-cooked lentils as a big time-saving shortcut and adding some diced carrots into the mix.  You could add celery, other root vegetables, and instead of using kale like I did (which is quite delicious in soup), you can use other leafy greens.  Adjust the amount of liquid (water) in the recipe depending on how much vegetables you use.


Lentil Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

- Approximately 6 to 8 servings -

2 cups black beluga lentils (or green French lentils), picked over and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Pinch of saffron (30-40 threads)
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
3 cups of a big leafy green (kale, chard, etc.), rinsed well, deveined, finely chopped

Cook lentils:  Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add lentils and cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender.  Drain and set aside.  Alternatively, use approximately 2 cups of pre-cooked French lentils.

Heat oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots, salt, red pepper flakes (if using), and saffron.  Saute for several minutes, until vegetables begin to soften.  Stir in the tomatoes, lentils, and water.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so that the soup is at a simmer.  Cook several more minutes until carrots are tender.  Stir in the chopped greens and simmer for another minute so that the greens have a chance to wilt and soften.  Adjust with additional salt and pepper as needed before serving.

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