Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Vegetable Lentil Soup

Here's a delicious vegetarian recipe that will use up all the extra veggies in your crisper drawer.

Essential ingredients:

1/2 large yellow onion
3-5 carrots (about 1.5 cups chopped)
4 celery stalks (about 1.5 cups chopped)
4-6 cloves garlic
1 TBSP thyme leaves
1 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
2 16 oz cans tomatoes plus juice
1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed
1.5-2 liters stock (I used mushroom but chicken or beef would work as well as a non-vegetarian option)
Olive oil

Optional ingredients - use whatever you have on hand and would like in the soup. This is what I had:

1 red bell pepper
3/4 c. flat-leafed parsley
1/4 c. freshly shelled peas
6 i'itoi (green) onions, white and green parts
2 cups chopped greens - I used mizuna but kale or chard would work nicely too

Chop the veggies ahead of time and keep in separate piles.

Put about 2 TBSP olive oil into a large soup pot. Heat until the oil starts to shimmer, then add the onion, carrot and celery to the oil. Cook on medium heat until the carrots start to soften; about 7 minutes. Stir often. The vegetables should sweat, not brown.

Add the garlic, thyme, oregano and optional veggies (minus greens) to the pot. Cook, stirring often, for about three minutes, until you can smell the garlic cooking.

Add the stock and lentils to the pot. Chop the tomatoes and add them and the juice from both cans*. Stir it all together and add the bay leaves. Poke them down into the liquid.

Cover and bring the soup to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, then check the lentils for tenderness. Cook longer if needed. Once the lentils are tender, season the soup to taste with salt** and cracked pepper. Fish out the bay leaves and discard them. Add the greens to the pot. Cover and cook for another 20 minutes.

*This is very much a tomato-based soup. If you don't want such strong tomato flavor, reduce to one can and add two more cups stock to the recipe.
**Add salt at the very end. If it is added earlier in cooking, the lentils will be tough.

Serve with a salad and hot bread with butter. YUM.

What else would work well in this soup? Turnips, added with the greens. Kohlrabi, added with the 2nd batch of veggies. Spinach, added about five minutes before serving. 1/4 c. wheat berries, added with the lentils.

It's a versatile recipe! Enjoy!

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