My husband has a summer cold – the worst! And while normally I would make a big pot of chicken soup, I didn’t have the ingredients on hand and was feeling a bit lazy. Cold summer soups have their place and I enjoy everything from a cold cherry soup to a spicy tomato-based gazpacho, but sometimes a cold soup just won’t cut it. In the Middle East, lentil soup is ubiquitous – summer, winter, spring or fall. This version of lentil soup is ready in an hour and a half, can be made from ingredients you already should have in your pantry and is both nutritious and satisfying. What it isn’t, however, is beautiful. Of course, you can pretty it up with croutons and sprinkle it with parsley or cilantro and you can add rice or other grains to make it heartier, but at its simplest it is perfect as is. It can be “veganized”, substituting EVOO for the butter and using a good quality vegetable broth.
Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup
Yield: About 8 servings, although it will serve more if you add grains and/or serve it as a first course
4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter or EVOO
1 large onion, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
2 stalks of celery, including with leaves, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
2 cups of brown lentils
8 cups of beef or vegetable broth
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Zest of one large lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of one large lemon, or more to taste
Italian flat-leaf parsley
Black sesame sticks (I buy mine from Nuts.com)
Cooked rice or other grain such as cooked bulghur
- Rinse and drain the lentils. Melt the butter (or heat the EVOO) in a pot with a tightly fitting lid (5 quarts or larger).
- Add the chopped onion, celery and carrot to the pot, along with a teaspoon of salt and saute until the vegetables have softened. Add the lentils and the broth and bring to a boil. Skim the liquid if necessary. Add the turmeric and lemon zest, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 1 hour or until the lentils will smush with the back of a spoon.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Add the cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon juice, taste and adjust your seasoning. I happen to like things pretty lemony so may add as much as the juice of two lemons, but that is personal preference.
- Serve as is or garnish. Leftovers keep well refrigerated. Just give the soup a good stir if the liquid separates a bit.
To Make Garlic Croutons
- Heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut slices of day-old bread into large dice. I like to leave on the crust. Toss them with drizzled EVOO (Garlic EVOO if you have it). Sprinkle the cubes with garlic powder and some Kosher salt.
- Place all of the cubes in a single layer on a baking pan. (I cover mine with foil or parchment to make clean-up easier.)
- Bake, turning once for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the bread is nicely browned.