I love lentils. We should do a whole week on lentils. Lentils are good for you, versatile and best of all, cost like $1.50 per pound. There are lots of types of lentil, the most common and available being green lentils, but there’s pretty black lentils that look like little shiny rocks, and pink lentils, which always sign their name with a heart over the i.
So anyway, I made lentil soup yesterday. The smartest thing I did, and the real reason for this post is to tell you the following: SOAK YOUR LENTILS. Lentil packages, those smarmy jerks, tell you there’s no need to soak lentils in advance, and most recipes say the same thing. I’m here to tell you though, unless you want whatever you’re making to take 3 hours, soak your lentils. I soak mine starting in the morning, or the night before, even. Put as many lentils as you’re using in a bowl, with enough warm water to cover them, and that’s it. By the time you’re ready to use them, they’ll have absorbed nearly all of it, and your recipe will be ready in a half an hour instead of 4. One thing I haven’t experimented with yet is adding flavor to the water, but it strikes me as a good idea. Might be good to mix up chicken bouillon into the water (and keep it in the fridge), or some lemon juice, or tomato paste, or something. I sometimes add garlic or wine to pasta water, and it works, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t work with lentils. So anyway, here’s my lentil soup recipe, bearing in mind that I soaked the lentils in advance, so they absorbed a lot less stock than they would have if I hadn’t.
1 lb green lentils (I think it was a pound, it was a whole bag)
1 qt chicken stock
6 pieces of bacon, chopped
a big onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, diced
5 big carrots, peeled and diced
2 cans diced tomatoes, don’t you dare drain them
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
salt and pepper
Get a nice big dutch oven hot on the stove, and drop your chopped bacon in. Let it render some fat for awhile (6-8 minutes), then put in the onions and garlic, and stir it around. A few notes: I leave the bacon in the soup as I cook it, but you could certainly crisp the bacon completely, remove it from the pot and reserve it to sprinkle on top later. I also put a fair bit of cracked pepper on the bacon while it cooks, because I think it tempers the sweetness, but that’s me.
When the onions are translucent-ish, throw in the carrots and stir them around until they soften a bit, maybe 5-8 minutes. Put both cans of diced tomatoes, with their juices, in the pot, and stir everything together. This is when I do the first round of spices, a pretty fair amount of cumin and coriander, and salt and pepper. Let all that come together for a minute, then put in the lentils and the whole quart of stock.
Let everything simmer on medium low heat, partially covered, for 15 min or so, after which I add more cumin, coriander and salt and pepper. Partially cover and let simmer for really as long as you want, but not less than 20-25 minutes. The soup really only takes maybe 40 minutes of cooking time, if you’ve soaked your lentils in advance. To test, fish a few lentils out with a spoon and eat them. I qualify lentils as being cooked when I can explode them on the top of my mouth with my tongue, and their little skins slide right off.
The last thing I do is blend some of it with my immersion blender, (the one I have is a base with multiple attachments, an immersion blender, a hand mixer and a little food processor, it’s awesome, and proof that Susan’s love for gadgets rubbed off on me) not completely, I like chunky soup, but you can do as you like. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can blend it in the blender, a little at a time, reserving the blended soup in a bowl until you figure you’re done, then put it all back in the pot.
Now you can serve it up. I’m going to tell you something now which will sound bizarre, but is seriously delicious, I learned it from some Italian lentil recipe. Dribble some balsamic vinegar (a tablespoon or so) on top of your soup. Seriously. The sweet tartness of the vinegar complements the buttery lentils and the smoke from the cumin and bacon SO well. You could also put a dollop of sour cream on it. I mean, if you want. Your call.
But I think any time you eat a food that you CAN put sour cream on and you DON’T, an angel loses its wings.