It snowed here in Michigan for the first time this year, much to my dismay. The rest of the week has been cold and wet thanks to the Tropical Storm Sandy coming through with a vengeance. Although I am safe and sound and out of the path of the destructive storm (my positive thoughts to those of you stuck in it), I have been craving something warm and comforting. I have begun the winter routine of coming in the door after work and slipping on my pajama pants (shh, don’t tell) and then heading to the kitchen in search of something warm.
Lentil soup is one of the most comforting dishes that I have in my repertoire. I have very fond memories of having lentil soup for dinner on cold winter days during my childhood. This may have been where my obsession with lentils began (I love every color!). I have now passed the love of this recipe onto my husband (who never tried lentils before we met), and we have started our own tradition of including this soup often on our dinner menu.
For those of you new to the dried lentil, they have a very earthy flavor and a tender texture when cooked in this recipe. They come dried in the bean aisle of the grocery store and usually cost between $1.00 and $1.25 for a pound which makes this recipe easy on your grocery budget too! Some lentils require soaking or rinsing in order to reduce the cooking time; I usually skip this step and throw them right in! I hope you try this recipe and allow it to warm you, inside and out.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped small
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped small
- 28oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 lb dried lentils
- 4 c. low-sodium vegetable broth (1 quart container)
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 5-8 sprigs fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper
- White vinegar (optional, sort of)
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 5-8 minutes until it becomes tender and translucent. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, bell pepper, and carrots and cook these together until vegetables begin to soften; approximately 8-10 minutes.Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add tomatoes, including the juice, and sprinkle on the cumin and oregano. Stir these ingredients together and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in lentils, bay leaf, and whole thyme sprigs (you can fish out the bare stems later) and vegetable broth.
Bring this mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the lentils are very tender. I sample a lentil every 5 minutes or so toward the end of cooking to see if they are done; so far I haven’t found a better way! When the lentils are cooked, remove the bay leaf and the thyme stems. Finally, ladle the soup into bowls and top with a small spoonful of vinegar, and stir.
This step is optional, but I have to tell you the vinegar takes the lentils to over-the-top delicious; once you try it you will never be able to leave it out again! Please enjoy one of my most cherished family recipes!