Lentils (Recipe: one-of-everything lentil soup)
Updated November 2011.
I missed the 18th Annual National Lentil Festival in Pullman, Washington, last week.
I missed out on a lot of good stuff.
The Lentil Pancake Breakfast. The Legendary Lentil Cookoff. The crowning of the Little Lentil King and Queen. And the Tour de Lentil 100K Bike Ride through the Palouse region of eastern Washington and Idaho, where more than one-third of this country's lentils are grown.
According to the USA Dry Pea, Lentil and Chickpea Council, farmers on the Palouse grow 500 million pounds of dry peas and lentils every year — which sounds like a lot, doesn't it? (On their web site, they claim this is the weight of 250,000 Volkswagons.) Canada is the world's largest producer of lentils, with Saskatchewan the primary growing area.
Like other legumes, lentils are packed with the nutrients, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and folic acid that help control blood sugar, and contribute to overall heart health. They're low-cal (only 230 calories per cooked cup), low-fat, and low-cost, too.
An ancient food that probably originated in the Fertile Crescent (what's now Syria, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, and parts of Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Iran), lentils inspire passion in the cuisines of many countries, including India, Turkey, and Italy, where they're popular on New Year's menus; the shape resembles tiny coins, and people eat them to bring good fortune in the new year.
To me, one of the measures of a good soup cook is whether he or she can make a robust, earthy, flavorful, and comforting lentil soup. When I'm in the mood for something bean-ish, but haven't remembered to soak my dry beans ahead of time, lentils are perfect; they don't need a pre-soak and they're not fussy.
One-of-everything lentil soup
From the pantry, you'll need: lentils, olive oil, onions, chicken stock.
All you have to remember about this soup is the number one. Add one small diced carrot, if you wish; I'm not especially fond of cooked carrot, but it will add a bit of sweetness to the soup. Serves 3-4, and makes a spectacular lunch with salad and a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 cup lentils
1 quart chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium storebought)
1 potato, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 cup water
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
In a three-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté for 2 minutes, until translucent. Add lentils and stock. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add potato, tomato, and water, and continue to cook until potatoes and lentils are cooked through. If you're using homemade stock, you may need to add salt at this point; if storebought stock (I use Swanson 99% Fat Free), you'll have plenty of salt in the soup. Season with lots of fresh black pepper to taste.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Slow-cooker Indian-spiced lentils
Lentils with spinach and preserved lemon
Vegan barley and lentil pilaf with mushrooms and spinach
Lentils and brown rice
Sweet potato, lentil and raisin stew
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Sausage and lentils with fried sage, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Mediterranean wheatberry salad with lentils and chickpeas, from Food Blogga
Vegetarian lentil burgers, from 101 Cookbooks
Spanish lentils and mushrooms, from Herbivoracious
Warm salad of roast beets, lentils and balsamic onions, from The Stone Soup
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I love to throw a couple of tablespoons of red lentils into my soups to make them heartier - a fab food!
Hey, thanks for finding my lentil recipe, and congrats on being featured by Typepad.
Being Italian, we were brought up on good lentil soup and a crusty piece of Italian bread....yummy (your recipe is similar). FYI, I went to Caraba's Restaurant on Rt. 2 in Warwick (DSW Shoe Store plaza) and they have a great lentil soup, it has sausage in it and it's very spicey. They also have some great bread and dipping sauce.
I also saw a recipe for cooking lentils with everything but the chicken stock, just use a little olive oil in a saute pan. Good side dish.
Ciao and congrats again Lydia!
Catherine, a great idea! I often use beans as a soup thickener, but I don't do enough with lentils, especially the red ones. Now that it's soup season, I'll be sure to try it.
I'm a bit confused by all the kinds of lentils - are they essentially the same? I've got a box of puy lentils that has been in my cupboard for, oh, a year or two.
Think I might try them in your soup - will it work?
Congrats on the Typepad feature - I'm on today and I'm quite excited!
Welcome, Erin -- and congratulations on being Typepad's featured blog today! Hope you have the chance to welcome many new readers to your blog, too; that's been the most fun for me. The lentils in my photo are actually the puy lentils, and I use them as I would the regular brown lentils. I find the puy ones are a bit more flavorful, and they are my first choice for side dishes with fish or meat.
Thanks Lydia. People are a bit shy to comment over on Fugue State, I think it's the classical music subject matter - not everyone's cup of tea I suppose.
I made your soup tonight with my puy lentils, and all ingredients excepting the potato (had none and too lazy to go to the shops), I added some lovely dried organic thyme I had around and a good fistful of flat-leaf parsley - with some grilled cheese sandwiches mae with lovely heritage aged cheddar (gotta love living in England, they are obsessed with cheese).
I had a gorgeous tapas plate in Vancouver, where I'm from originally, that was puy lentils and a toulouse sausage. It was a beautiful combo. Lots of chefs and food writers do lentils with sausage or lardons over here - excellent for cutting the fattiness.
If you ever need to source a cookbook from across the pond as it were, just let me know.
Erin, I love that you made the soup! Every time I come to London, I go to Books for Cooks and pick up some of those wonderful cookbooks that never seem to make it to the US. The people who work there are so knowledgeable and always have great recommendations.
Lentils and sausage are the classic combination, and tossing some sausage in my soup recipe would be a good idea, too.
I'm still a little mystified by the difference between black lentils, green lentils, French lentils, and puy lentils. I have used "French lentils" and "black lentils" (which look a lot like your puy lentils) in salads since they hold their shape and texture better than the brown lentils. I love the red lentils for their texture - but I was very sad when they lost their lovely pink/red hue when cooked.
Any ideas on the differnces in those lentil varieties?
Jessica, I'll do a bit more research on this. I tend to use the brown ones (both flat and round) for soup, and the green ones for salad and side dishes. I've only cooked with the pink once or twice, in Indian dishes.
Are there any lentil experts out there? If so, please share your wisdom.
Alas, I'm no expert - I'd REALLY LOVE to know the difference between all the lentils.
All I know is that I adore them.
Cynthia, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Stay tuned -- I'm planning to run another post about lentils when I have more information. What are your favorite lentil dishes? If you have a favorite recipe, please share!