DID YOU THINK I HAD DISAPPEARED FOREVER?! I spent the last several months working endlessly on another project which took all of my writing focus. But here we are and I'm easing us back in with something I haven't given you in a long time: a recipe!
Check out this bomb lentil soup. Soup is bomb. Lentils are bomb. It's a match made in heaven. Full of protein, fiber, complex carbs, iron, potassium, and the prebiotics that lots of beans contain. Sure they give you farts but also gut health! A good trade!
Lentils get a bad reputation. I made a not-so-successful lentil dish recently and someone said to me, "What, you were surprised that your ~LeNtILs~ weren't the most delicious thing you've ever eaten or...?"
OK, first, RUDE. (She wasn't wrong though.) But second, lentils don't have to be the dusty mothball legumes of your youth. For those of us who aren't professionals with magic bean skillz, lentils do better in a soup or a sauce. And lentil soup is the most classic.
This soup is delicious, super healthy, loaded with vegetables, and easily made with or without meat. I put this batch over egg noodles because egg noodles are the fucking best. They're the Rihanna of noodles. There's never a wrong time for egg noodles. But you can go rice or potatoes too.
Don't be alarmed by the length of this recipe. Half the ingredients are seasonings and all of the work is done up front. Once it's all in the pot, you can just go put your feet up and read my dear friend Mark Shrime's wonderful new book while it cooks.
* Olive oil and butter
* 2 packages of soppressata, pancetta, or similar. (Usually one package is about 4oz. And while a lot of cured meats will work great, prosciutto isn't your best bet here. Bacon would definitely work though, and lentil soup loves sausage like Michelle Obama loves pushups.)
* 1 yellow onion, chopped into whatever size pieces you like
* As much fresh garlic as doesn't offend you
* 4 carrots, chopped small
* 4 celery stalks, chopped small
* 1 large can of diced tomatoes, 28oz
* 1 container of fresh spinach (you can use frozen but risk bringing extra water into the soup)
* 16oz bag of lentils, brown, green, red, yellow, your choice! I used brown for this one. They tell you to rinse and pick through your lentils to make sure there aren't any stones so I feel like I should tell you to do that too but to be honest...I usually don't. Keep your eyes open for a future blog post about that time I bit down on a rock while eating lentil soup.
* Minimum 2 lemons
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon harissa (If you don't have harissa in your kitchen, go get it. Don't run out of it again. OK?)
* 1 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1 teaspoon paprika of choice (I used hot smoked paprika in this one)
* 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper (or ancho chile works great, or a smaller amount of cayenne is great if you can't find either one)
* 2 teaspoons dried thyme
* Red pepper flakes, if you like spicy
* 1 bunch of fresh cilantro (if you're a cilantro hater, we can still be friends but I'm going to give you shit for it forever. Feel free to leave it out, or use fresh parsley instead.)
* Salt and pepper to taste
* Minimum 8 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
* Greek yogurt, if desired
* Green onion, if desired
1) If you're using any kind of meat, chop it into the size pieces you want. If you're not using meat, skip down to step 5. Also chop your onion and garlic and set them into a bowl.
2) Heat a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot. If you're using one of the bacon variants, add your meat in immediately, while the oil is still warming up. If you're using sausage, chicken, etc, wait until the oil is shimmering and hot before adding. (If it's chicken, don't forget to season it with salt and pepper.)
3) Cook til browned (sausage, chicken, etc), or crispy (pancetta, bacon, etc). If you're using thicker pieces of meat, they don't have to be cooked all the way through. Just seared on the outside.
4) While the meat is cooking, chop your carrots and celery.
5) Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside. Add a good amount more of olive oil (not more than 1/4 cup) and a tablespoon or two of butter if you're feeling extravagant. Be careful not to splatter it in, this shit is gonna be hot!
6) Add your garlic and onions immediately. Cook til they're softened, stirring occasionally.
7) Add your carrots and celery. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
8) Add all of your seasoning here: Salt, pepper, cumin, harissa, garlic powder, paprika, aleppo pepper, thyme, and red pepper flakes. I know it's a lot of seasoning. Stay with me. Remember, we're using a shit ton of broth, tomatoes, and lentils, all of which will need to be seasoned. If your soup is too bland, you'll think it was because of the lentils when really it's because of the seasoning!
9) Add in your tomatoes, add 1/4 of chopped cilantro, add the juice of one lemon, and cook for a few minutes.
10) Add in your lentils and 8 cups of broth. Turn up the heat to high and bring it to a boil.
11) Turn the heat down to a simmer and partially cover the pot.
12) Let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 - 40 minutes. You want the lentils to be tender, and cooking time can change based on what color your lentils are. Red and yellow ones can get real squishy. Brown and green tend to stay crunchier. Either way it doesn't really matter so long as they're not undercooked, which will really ruin your meal. Check for seasoning on the way, especially salt. If you've over-spiced, try adding a bit of honey to help balance.
13) If you have an immersion blender (and I strongly recommend having one in your kitchen), blend about half of your soup right in the pot. This will make your soup thick and delicious, but still leave actual identifiable food in the pot so it doesn't become a lentil smoothie. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can pour a few cups of the soup into any blender or food processor and then return them to the pot.
14) I know you've been like BUT MIA WHAT ABOUT THE MEAT?!?!?!
If you used thick cut meat (sausage, chicken), add it back in to the pot now. Simmer until the meat is cooked through and the flavors are melded.
If you used bacon or bacon-affiliates, don't stir it in!! Keep it aside til step 16.
15) When it feels like your soup is close, stir in some huge handfuls of the spinach. You really can't over-spinach here. It'll shrink down as soon as you stir it in. Also add the second lemon here, and another handful of cilantro. Cook a few more minutes. Taste test for salt, pepper, lemon, and spice one more time.
16) Time to eat! Ladle a whole pile of that legume-y goodness over your starch of choice. Sprinkle a bunch of those crispy bacon pieces on top (this is why you don't stir them in sooner) and top with greek yogurt, green onion, and extra cilantro or parsley if you like.
You're done, you're about to eat a ton of veggies, and you'll have leftovers that taste amazing for a week. Enjoy!