Lentil Goodness

Lentils are really good for you. They’re economical. Lentils are a good source of potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K, and rich in dietary fiber (8 grams), lean protein (9 grams), folate and iron. They treat your heart right. Lentils also cook up fast, in only 15 to 30 minutes.

Remember how Mark Bittman taught me how to cook? What I love about his recipes is that he gives you ideas on how to change it up – options are good! This lentils recipe is his, as are the change-ups, below:

Lentils make soup making easy—they cook quickly and are incredibly tasty. And unlike many lentil soups, which are so thick they put people off completely, this one is nicely balanced with some simple vegetables. The lentils break down a bit during the cooking to give the soup a hearty consistency, but you can purée it if you prefer. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, cut into 1/2 -inch dice
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2 -inch dice
1 cup lentils, washed and picked over
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock or water
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt

1. Put the oil in a large, deep pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, just a minute or two. Add the carrot and celery and keep cooking and stirring until brightly colored and hot, about 2 minutes.

2. Add the lentils, bay leaf, and stock; sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. (At this point, you may cool and refrigerate the soup, covered, for up to 2 days; reheat gently.) Add more stock if the soup is too thick. Just before serving, taste, sprinkle with salt and more pepper if needed, and serve.

Lentil Soup with Lemon and Dill. About a minute before serving, stir in 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, or to taste.

Lentil Soup with Cumin. Add 11/2 teaspoons ground cumin along with the bay leaf. Add a squeeze of lime or orange juice, if you like, and garnish with a dollop of yogurt and chopped fresh cilantro.

Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika. Add 1 teaspoon smoked paprika along with the bay leaf. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or chives if you like.

Lentil Soup with Sausage or Bacon. Start with about 1/4 pound chopped sausage, bacon, or pancetta and cook it in the soup pot until slightly crisp before adding the other ingredients in Step 1. Drain the fat if you like or use it and omit the olive oil.

Lentil Soup with Roasted Garlic. Omit the onion, carrot, and celery. Prepare and peel 1 or 2 heads of roasted garlic. In Step 1, cook the garlic in the olive oil for a minute or two, mashing and stirring until fragrant.

Lentil Soup with Dried Tomatoes. Omit the onion, carrot, and celery. In Step 1 cook 1/2 cup dried tomatoes (preferably not oil-packed) and a tablespoon of minced garlic in the olive oil for a minute or two, stirring occasionally, until both are softened and fragrant. Proceed with the recipe.

I made my own chicken stock, which I will cover on the next Foodie Friday. I digressed from this lentil soup recipe. I even omitted celery. I’ll cover this on the next Foodie Friday post.

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