Red Lentil Soup

Red lentil soup

Lately I’m obsessed with lentils.  Our pantry shelves are lined with them—bags and boxes filled with miniature rounds of black, green and brown.  To those who rifle around looking for more readily edible snacks, my compulsion is slightly puzzling.  A collection of shoes in the closet or books on the shelf is easier to understand.  But mothers have other odd obsessions as well, best ignored, as teens well know; simply shove the legumes aside and move on to the chips.

Loving lentils makes sense to me, if to no one else.  I cook dinner every day for a vegetarian family, and legumes and beans offer us a rich source of vegetable protein that’s essential to our diet.  And beyond the nutrition, they’re a treasure trove of inspiration as well.  I’ve no doubt I could add lentils to the pot day after day, week after week, and never repeat the same concoction twice (unless I wanted to).  One day it’s soup, another a main-dish salad.  Then on to a stew or dal.

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Lentil Salad with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Lentil Salad with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette This dish was inspired by my friend, Jane’s trick of puréeing sun-dried tomatoes with oil and vinegar for a bold, flavor-packed dressing that livens up simple lentils.  Even those Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrettewho dislike the chewy texture of the dried fruit will love this zippy salad.  Vary the vegetables as you like.  Add chopped celery, fennel or radishes, or a handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or dill.  Omit the feta for a vegan option.  Use brown or green lentils that remain whole with cooking, such as Spanish Pardina lentils or French lentilles Du Puy.

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Lentil Soup with Roasted Tomatoes

Lentils are a healthy staple of the vegetarian diet, and a cheap, versatile protein source for anyone—meat-free or not.  They cook up quickly and add hearty body to a simple soup. I like Umbrian lentils from Italy—they hold their shape well with cooking—but any brown lentil will do. The flavor of this soup is amped up with a pint of roasted cherry tomatoes.  You could toss most any leafy green into the pot—kale, collards, mustard greens, chard.  Substantial leaves will need a bit more simmering to soften.  Try some chopped fresh herbs for serving—especially cilantro or mint.  And a last minute drizzle of fruity olive oil.

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French Lentil Salad with Arugula and Goat Cheese

This salad riffs on a classic French bite — every cook can offer their own variation on the theme. Flavored with salty capers, Dijon mustard and spicy arugula, you can adapt the ingredients to the seasons. In summer add sweet tomatoes, bell peppers or grilled eggplant — in winter toss in roasted squash or carrots. Substitute basil or parsley for the cilantro. Continue reading

Lentil Soup with Roasted Roots and Mint

The original inspiration for this hearty soup came from Love Soup, by Anna Thomas, but I’ve tweaked the formula in so many ways over years, that I no longer could tell you what that recipe looked like. This soup draws its sweetness from loads of roasted carrots and parsnips (though it has done well with potatoes, turnips and fennel). There is also a bright nuance to the flavor that’s often tricky for tasters to pinpoint — lemon and mint.

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