It has been so cold this last week. Fortunately in Texas if you don't like the weather all you have to do is wait a few days as it will all change before you know it. We'll be upper 70's this weekend! :) In the meantime, I have been cold. Between the weather and too many baked goods at school (I'll actually be happy when baking is behind us….this is the last week!) I was in need of something warm and nourishing. Lentils are a really good plant source of protein as well as the B vitamins (especially folate), fiber, phosphorous, iron, potassium, and zinc. You can read here. There is also a nice little article here about the benefits of lentils including reduction in cholesterol, heart health, weight loss and stable blood sugar. All those benefits aside, I wanted something warm and filling and definitely not baked!
Lentils come in a variety of colors….brown, black, green, orange…as well as whole or split. The brown and green ones hold their shape well when cooked. They are nice for soups and salads where you want whole lentils. The orange ones and the split ones are better when you want them to melt together as they cook. Think of Indian dal dishes where they are more like a chunky puree than a soup or stew. Lentils are inexpensive (I got a pound out of the bullk bin for $2.60). They also cook quickly compared to other beans and don't need to be soaked. So if you have carrots, celery and onion on hand this would be easy to put together at the end of a busy day. I buy tomato paste in a tube, so it is easy to keep in the fridge to use the bit that you need, rather than opening a can and only using half of it.
I've been eating this soup all week for lunch. It keeps and reheats well and tastes better the longer it sits. I didn't want to bake anything, but it would be great with cornbread if you aren't up to your ears in baked goods! And here is a little 4th grade humor for you! I admit I laughed!
Hearty Lentil Soup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25-45 minutes
Ingredients (4 -6 servings)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- salt and pepper
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 large or 3 small stalks celery, finely diced
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and sorted
- 1 5 oz package baby spinach
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook briefly until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste. Add 1 tsp salt, celery, carrots, and bay leaf. Stir and cook a few minutes until well combined. Stir in the lentils and mix well. Add 64 ounces (2 quarts) of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender 25 to 45 minutes. (Taste a lentil and when it is tender to the bite it is ready.)
Chop the spinach into small pieces. (This is really easy using scissors right in the plastic tube the spinach comes in.) Add to the soup and cook about 5 minutes until nicely wilted. Add the mustard, red wine vinegar, 1 tsp salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Remove the bay leaves and serve. This gets better the longer it sits, so leftovers the next day are delicious.