Take a good look at these lentils!
They’re called french green lentils, but I think they’d be offended by the generalization. They’re a palette of navy, vermilion, black, yellow and burnt orange, and they were a very thoughtful Christmas present from my friend Wendy.
It would come as no surprise to learn that I think food-related gifts are the best gifts to give and receive. A dear friend once gave me a colander and a some assorted bowls she no longer needed and I think of her whenever I reach for them. When I receive a cookbook I get giddy. Even my family’s leftovers make me happy.
So when I peeped into the little bag Wendy gave me and found not only a jar of lentils but a recipe as well, I became rather happy indeed. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Give this girl some lentils and a recipe, and she can make soup, eat soup, share soup, talk about soup, photograph soup, blog about soup then make soup again and again.
Wendy’s recipe is taken from the Barefoot Contessa herself, and I was excited to use some vegetable stock that I’ve been making frequently thanks to Tamar Adler's book An Everlasting Meal. The stuff, I’m telling you, is liquid gold.
The original recipe yields more soup than I can eat in a week, so I halved it so as not to waste.
You will need:
- ½ lb french green lentils
- 2 cups chopped yellow onions (1 ½ onions)
- 2 cups chopped leeks (white parts only)
- ½ tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tbsp kosher salt
- ¾ tsp black pepper
- ½ tbsp fresh minced thyme
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 ½ cups diced celery (4 stalks)
- 1 ½ cups diced carrots
- 3 quarts chicken stock (or combination chicken or vegetable stock)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and sauté the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and cumin. The moment the cumin hits your nose you might have the same realization I had - that’s what makes lentil soup taste so distinct! I cook with cumin all the time and never made the connection between the two. It was cumin all along! SPOILER ALERT: If lentil soup was The Usual Suspects, cumin would be sort of like Kevin Spacey - integral to the job and totally hiding in plain sight. Except that cumin doesn’t pull the wool over the soup’s eyes and no mugs get broken. Unless you’re accident-prone. I digress. The point is, cumin.
Once the onions and leeks become translucent, after about 10-15 minutes, add the celery and carrots and cook for another 10 minutes.
Add the stock, lentils and tomato paste (or ketchup). Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
The soup will reduce down and thicken rather nicely. To serve, top with a splash of vinegar, parmesan cheese and a bit of olive oil.
Thanks Wendy, for this hearty and delicious soup!