My friend Michelle put me onto Mark Bittman’s lentil soup recipe. It’s easy and nourishing, with a bright flavor: tender fresh veggies and herbs, tasty tricolor lentils, and a splash of lemon.
Bittman calls for just carrot, celery, and onion, but I like to add other aromatic veggies. He gives seven delicious variations (in How To Cook Everything, a cookbook library must-have). I’ll give you my favorite two.
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large or two small onions
1 or 2 carrots
1 celery stalk
1 cup lentils* (or more, if you have lots of veggies)
1 bay leaf
6–8 cups chicken stock**
Handful of fresh chopped parsley
Handful of fresh chopped dill
Juice of 1 lemon (or about 3 tablespoons)
Freshly ground black pepper
*I use a tricolor blend, or green French lentils.
**It’s worth making or buying the really good stuff.
1. Chop all the veggies. (I like to leave the carrots on the coarser side—nice hearty discs.) Wash and pick over the lentils.
2. In a large, deep pot, heat the oil on medium. When it’s hot , add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft—a couple of minutes. Add the carrot and cook for a minute, then add the celery. Cook a couple more minutes, until they’re brightly colored and hot. Add the parsnip and turnip, cook a couple more minutes, continuing to stir. Then add the leek.
3. Add the lentils, bay leaf and stock. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are tender—25 or 30 minutes. About five minutes before it’s done, add the fresh chopped parsley. Add more stock if the soup’s too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (The stock might already have plenty of salt.)
4. Once I’ve turned off the heat, I usually do Bittman variation #1: lemon and dill. Add these to the warm soup, and serve. The flavor is bright and fresh.
Another fabulously flavorful variation: add 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika with the bay leaf. (In this case, no lemon or dill, but do use the parsley, or garnish with fresh chives.) Smoked paprika gives the soup a vibrant, hearty color and delicious aroma—try it!
One more option: sometimes I stir in some greens near the end (baby kale, spinach, chard or arugula). It’s a great way to get those leafy-green nutrients, and it’s delicious.