Friday, December 21, 2007

Lentil Soup: Friends, Romans, Christmasmen, Lentil Me Your Ear

(Apologies for the title. Punnerific!)

Just in time for the holidays, it’s the Christmasiest dish of all: Lentil Soup!

Okay, not really. While Lentil Soup doesn’t scream O Come All Ye Faithful, it is most definitely a meal for frigid December nights – a dense, stewy comfort food that may not be fancy enough to serve guests, but does just fine for on a random Wednesday.

Like every other food that's not pasta or chicken, I’m kind of new to lentils. They careened into my life during a braising class about a year ago, like some savory, wine-infused comet. Needless to say, Cabernet Sauvignon + veal stock + anything = highly satisfying, so my introduction was totally jolly and very bright. However, I do understand why some might have an aversion to lentils. Honestly, they’re kind of dry, and there’s only so much you can do to make ‘em kick. BUT, prepared with some flair (FLAIR!), they’re pretty palatable. Good, even.

This dish fits the flair bill. (The flair bill? Okay, I’ll go with it.) It’s an All Recipes special that starts with a rough mire poix and then simmers long enough to infuse everything with a gentle, savory flava.

Based on reviewer comments, I reduced the olive oil by half, opted for diced tomatoes, substituted chicken stock for half the water, and chose balsamic vinegar over red wine vinegar. They were all good suggestions, though I might cut back on the vinegar. It nearly overpowered the other flavors.

Based on my own preferences, I nixed the spinach called for in the original recipe. I’m raw spinach’s biggest fan, but the cooked stuff seriously grosses me out. I vividly remember accidentally biting into a diner spinach roll a few years ago and nearly spitting it back at my sister. She was not pleased, but – yick.

Also? I think I may have finally learned how to “salt and pepper to taste.” This is very exciting, since I formerly interpreted that particular direction as “salt and pepper until your tongue turns into a raisin.” My new understanding is that salt should be applied enough to highlight and strengthen a flavor, but not become a flavor in itself. Three cheers.
So - here it is. Hope you like it, and I'll be back late next week with new posts. Happy holidays!

Lentil Soup
Makes six large servings
Adapted from All Recipes.

1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups dry lentils
8 cups water (OR 4 cups water and 4 cups broth)
2 tablespoons vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Saute until onion is soft and tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, bay leaf, oregano, and basil. Saute another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) Add lentils. Stir. Add water and tomatoes. Stir again and bring to a boil. Once soup begins boiling, drop heat to medium-low and simmer for a minimum of 60 minutes.

3) When soup is just about done, stir in spinach and continue cooking until it wilts. Add vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
356.5 calories, 7.2 g fat, $0.69

1 onion, chopped: 46 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.15
2 tablespoons olive oil: 239 calories, 27 g fat, $0.16
2 carrots, diced: 50 calories, 0.3 g fat, $0.20
2 stalks celery, chopped: 11 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.40
2 cloves garlic, minced: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.10
1 teaspoon dried oregano: negligible fat and calories, $0.02
1 bay leaf: negligible fat and calories, $0.03
1 teaspoon dried basil: negligible fat and calories, $0.02
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes: 82 calories, 0 g fat, $1.39 (ouch)
2 cups dry lentils: 1356 calories, 4.1 g fat, $0.48
4 cups water: negligible fat and calories, free
4 cups chicken stock: 346 calories, 11.5 g fat, $0.92
2 tablespoons vinegar: negligible fat and calories, $0.24
salt to taste: negligible fat and calories, $0.02
ground black pepper to taste: negligible fat and calories, $0.02
TOTAL: 2139 calories, 43.1 g fat, $4.15
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 356.5 calories, 7.2 g fat, $0.69

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MCM Voices said...


If you have not yet discovered French lentils, they will rock your world. Small and dark, they maintain their integrity even if you cook them a long time (um, yeah, I meant to do that...). You can get them at Whole Foods.

Here is another really swell lentil dish, which I made up:

2 cups French lentils cooked in 4 cups broth or water 'til done (40 minutes or so)

1 cup basmati rice cooked in two cups broth or water 20 minutes

Fling them together with a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, some broth, some cut-up cooked sausage (e.g. Italian, breakfast, bratwurst, fancy chicken apple, whatever - like 2 lbs maybe), and if you like onions and garlic you can add that in whatever way onion-and-garlic-liking people do, and bake at 350 deg. F in a casserole dish, maybe covered or maybe not, for: 1 while

It's so good. One time I sort of burned them a little bit in the oven and it was even better. Nice smoky taste.

Kris said...

MSM, that casserole sounds great. I think I'll give it a shot.

Jacob said...

I lived on something very similar to this when I was a grad student. I could whip up 5 days worth of food in 30 minutes with a lentil soup / tuna salad combo. Instead of chicken broth, I used bullion and ketchup and I made it in a pressure cooker.

Kris said...

Jacob, the ketchup detail is a really good one. A slow-cooker chili recipe asked for a dollop of Heinz a few months ago, and I was positive it would have a negative affect on the whole shebang. It didn't. The next day, you couldn't tell at all that it was ketchup and not tomato paste or something similar. Weird.

Hadias said...

Although we have used different recipes we definately share a love for a bowl of warm lentil soup. I serve mine over steamed rice.

Enjoy your Holiday.

P.S. I am going to add your post to my technorati favs and

Kate said...

In the past year I wanted to try lentils and found this great recipe for lentil burritos. I have tweaked it a bit to my liking, but I have turned people who never liked lentils before into lentil lovers.

Lentil Burritos:

* 2 cups water
* 1 cup dried lentils
* 2 tablespoons minced onion
* 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/2 pkt taco seasoning
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
* 1 small zucchini, chopped
* 1 cup taco sauce
* 1 cup shredded cheese
* 1 tomato diced
* 1 green pepper diced
* 8 (8 inch) fat-free tortillas
* sour cream and salsa


1. In a saucepan, combine the first seven ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain if necessary.

2.Stir in zucchini and taco sauce. Simmer about 5-10 more mins.

3.Place lentils in the center of each tortilla add cheese, vegetables, and sauces as desired. Fold sides and ends over filling and roll up.

Hope you enjoy it!

Kris said...

Thanks, Hadias!

Kate, that sound pretty sweet. I'll definitely give it a shot in the near future.

Daniel Koontz said...

Hey Kris, thanks for posting this! Great idea, and definitely a "laughably cheap" kind of recipe that's healthy and easy to make.

Casual Kitchen

Jaime said...

I'm eating a bowl of this right now, having made a big many-lunches pot of it last night. Delicious! Small changes that worked well for me:

-Because I had a can on hand, I used fire-roasted diced tomatoes. They add something really amazing.
-I stirred in some lacinato kale at the end. Again, cause I had it. Again - success!
-And in a third move of throw-my-whole-kitchen-into-this-soup, roasted cauliflower is also great.

Oh, and I skipped the celery bc I hate cooked celery. Still good! Soup is magic.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to put spinach in the ingredient list, but put it in the last step.

Carrie said...

I just made this, toasted an English muffin to go with and opened a beer. Yum! I had a sip of beer then a spoonful of soup and started thinking. Then threw in about a cup of beer into the soup. Really good!