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.
Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from The New York Times
What You Need
1 1/2 cups red lentils (soaked, if possible – see below)
3 tablespoons olive oil
One yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 liter vegetable broth
What To Do
1 If possible, soak the lentils prior to cooking – place them in a large bowl and cover with several inches of cold water for about 12 hours or so. If you don’t have time, this step is optional – you’ll just have to cook the lentils a bit longer in Step 5.
2 Chop the onion. Finely dice the 4 cloves garlic. Chop the 2 carrots. Chop a bit of cilantro (if using for a garnish).
3 In a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and carrots and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes.
4 Add the tomatoes, 3 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds pepper. Saute for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5 Add the broth and lentils. Bring to a simmer, then cook until the lentils are soft – about 10 to 15 minutes if soaked, or around 20 to 30 minutes if unsoaked. When the soup is done, puree it using an immersion blender (or regular blender).
6 While the soup cooks, toast the almonds – in a dry pan over medium heat, heat the almonds, stirring occasionally, until browned – about 3 to 4 minutes (make sure to watch them constantly so they do not burn).
7 When the soup is done, dish the soup into bowls. Garnish with toasted almonds, fresh squeezed lemon juice, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of olive oil.