How is it that lentils are conspicuously absent from the traditional Midwest American diet? Neither Alex nor I remember eating them much (if ever) as children. It’s a shame, since they’re delicious and bursting with nutrition, not to mention budget-friendly.
Just looking at their bright, happy color can cure any case of the winter blues (though we’re had such a mild winter here in Indiana there’s not much need)!
The unfortunate part of red lentils is that cooking them takes away much of the beautiful color – but the end product is completely worth it! (We found adding some paprika did help to liven up the color a bit.) While this soup is quite simple to make, it turns out with a complex and delicious flavor.
What takes the cake in this recipe is the garnish – don’t skimp on this one! We found that the combination of crunchy toasted almonds, fresh cilantro, and tangy lemon juice took the soup to a new level.
We enjoyed this as a first course for a lovely dinner with friends, but know we’ll be making it again soon for an easy weeknight dinner. Since the leftovers reheat well, it is also a great option to take to work for lunch.
- 1½ cups red lentils (soaked, if possible)
- 1 yellow onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 carrots
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 3 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- ⅓ cup sliced almonds
- 1 lemon
- Fresh cilantro, to garnish
- If possible, soak 1½ cups lentils prior to cooking: place them in a large bowl and cover with several inches of cold water for about 12 hours. If you don’t have time, this step is optional; the lentils will just need to be cooked a bit longer in Step 5.
- Chop the onion. Mince 4 cloves garlic. Chop the 2 carrots. Chop a bit of cilantro (if using for a garnish).
- In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and carrots and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, 3 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds black pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add 1 quart broth and the lentils. Bring to a simmer, then cook until the lentils are soft, 10 to 15 minutes if soaked, or 20 to 30 minutes if unsoaked. When the soup is done, purée it using an immersion blender (or regular blender).
- While the soup cooks, toast the almonds in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes (make sure to watch them constantly so they do not burn).
- To serve, dish the soup into bowls. Garnish with toasted almonds, fresh squeezed lemon juice, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of olive oil.