Experimental Lentil [Soup]

MAID.  O, welcome, Heracles! come in, sweetheart.

My Lady, when they told her, set to work,

Baked mighty loaves, boiled two or three tureens

Of lentil soup, roasted a prime ox whole,

Made rolls and honey-cakes. So come along.

–Aristophanes, The Frogs

I’ll admit, I sometimes have odd cravings. Raw carrots, candy hearts, frozen peas… the list goes on.1 But earlier this week, after consuming some mediocre lentil soup at a mediocre falafel joint in my neighborhood, all I could think about was lentils. In a lentil-induced haze, I ran to my local supermarket and bought a handful of ingredients: carrots, celery, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and–you guessed it–lentils. After two hours of chopping, sautéeing, ransacking my spice cabinet, sprinkling, simmering, and stirring, something new and delicious was born.

Experimental Lentil [Soup]2

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups dry lentils (I used one cup of red lentils and one cup of regular brown/green lentils)
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes3
  • 1 large onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cups vegetable stock (you can also use chicken stock, but I used vegetable stock to make this soup completely vegetarian-friendly)4
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin (either ground or in seed form)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder5
  • a liberal sprinkling of ground black pepper
  • OPTIONAL: bay leaf, oregano, basil, spinach6

Chop the carrots, celery, and onion. I like big chunks of onion and carrot in my soup, but your mileage may vary. Chop according to personal preference. Mince the garlic. Soak the lentils7 in a bowl of warm water (make sure they’re covered by at least an inch or two of water) and set aside. Pour/make your vegetable stock in a large pot.

Sauté the onions in olive oil with a pinch of black pepper for a couple of minutes until almost cooked. Sprinkle in about 1/2 tsp of paprika and 1/2 tsp cumin. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic and continue to sauté for 10 minutes. (You may have to splash in a little more olive oil.) Set aside.

At this point, your lentils should be a little puffier, though not completely expanded.8 Drain them and pour into the vegetable stock. Stir in the rest of the vegetables. Add the rest of your spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and simmer, covered, for at least an hour. Serve with a good, crusty bread.

This recipe fed two very hungry people completely, plus three servings left over for lunches. It is deceptively filling, and doubling the recipe should easily feed a whole dinner party of six. Or many tiny children.

One lucky flatterer diner remarked, “This is the best lentil soup of my life.” But don’t take his word for it! Make your own lentil soup today!9 If only Cinderella had known about this recipe…

“Cinderella, wouldn’t you like to go to the ball?”

“Oh, yes. But how can I go? I don’t have a dress.”

“No,” said the oldest one, “and we would be ashamed if you were to be seen there, and people learned that you are our sister. You belong in the kitchen. Here is a basin of lentils. Sort the good ones from the bad ones, and if there is a single bad one in the lot when we return, you can expect the worst.”

–Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Cinderella

  1. Right now, I’m eating a spoonful of peanut butter. []
  2. More photos on Flickr []
  3. Some recipes call for crushed tomatoes, but I like the texture and flavor that diced tomatoes add to the soup. I got fancy and picked out a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes. []
  4. If you need a recommendation for a good vegetable soup stock, Better Than Bouillon vegetable base has never failed me and one jar lasts absolutely forever. I dissolved about 5 teaspoons of vegetable base in 6 cups of boiling water to make my stock. This makes a pretty strong soup base, and the amount of vegetable base can be reduced for a weaker, less salty soup. []
  5. Inclusion of this is not accidental. []
  6. These ingredients are supplemental. []
  7. Just be gentle! []
  8. Sometimes they can be temperamental. []
  9. And you’ll have a soup that’s transcendental! []

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