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Hearty Lentil Soup “Can you stay for dinner?” an elementary schoolmate asked me decades ago. “We’re having lentil soup, she said. “What are lentils?” I asked. Being of Asian descent, lentils had never passed through my lips before. To my delight, I found her family’s lentil soup to be rich in flavor and texture and I will forever associate lentils with her.

Lentils, like other legumes, are high in fiber and protein and low in fat. But unlike other legumes, there’s no need to presoak lentils and they take less time to cook. The dominant flavors in this robust soup come from the earthiness of the lentils and the fresh vegetables, but the subtle undertones come from two surprising ingredients: Dijon mustard and vinegar. This soup is hostess-friendly, too, because it can be made a day in advance and it tastes even better when served the second day!

Hearty Lentil Soup
Recipe from the Sacramento Bee

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely diced onion
3 large garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup finely diced carrot
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1½ cups French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Chopped celery leaves and parsley, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over high heat. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to color around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, mince or pound the garlic in a mortar with 1 teaspoon salt.

3. Work the tomato paste into the onion, then add the garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaves and parsley and cook for 3 minutes.

4. Add the lentils, 2 quarts of water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, 24 to 35 minutes.

5. Stir in the mustard and vinegar. Taste and add more of either as needed.

6. Check the salt, season with plenty of pepper, remove the bay leaves and serve, garnished with the celery leaves and parsley.

7. The longer the soup sits before serving, the better it will taste.

Serves 4 to 6

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I use Italian parsley when I make this soup.

2. Because I like the way French green lentils hold their shape, I prefer using them in this soup over brown lentils.

3. The second time I made this soup, I used vegetable broth in place of the water. I can honestly say that there was no noticeable improvement in flavor using the broth, so I don’t recommend spending extra money on vegetable broth. This is not to say, though, that homemade vegetable stock wouldn’t have added a richness to the soup.

ENJOY!

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The howling wind and driving rain kept me awake most of the night. As I tossed and turned, I kept thinking to myself, “This soupy weather dictates staying home tomorrow and making a big pot of delicious soup.” I thought about a party I’d been to a couple of weeks ago. Someone had brought a great chicken tortilla soup. After begging the soup maker for the recipe, she finally relented and gave it to me verbally. I didn’t even have to write it down – that’s how simple the recipe is! The recipe may have Trader Joe’s origins, but am not totally sure. I tried making this soup, but made a few changes to the recipe by adding hominy, cumin, leaf oregano, and additional chicken broth. I also added the shredded chicken towards the end of the cooking period so it would not dry out and lose flavor. I think the changes were worthwhile.

My adaptation of Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup:
1 store bought rotisserie chicken or any left over chicken meat, shredded
2 (32 oz). boxes chicken broth
1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can hominy, drained
1 jar of Trader Joe’s Double Roasted Salsa
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks
Topping ingredients below

Pour 1 box of stock into a stockpot. Add corn, beans, hominy, salsa, and carrots. Stir until mixed. Add ground cumin and dried oregano leaves to taste. Cook until carrots are tender. Add shredded chicken. Add more chicken broth if soup needs more liquid. Stir. Simmer 10-15 minutes longer or until soup comes to a boil again.

While soup is simmering, assemble your toppings:
Crushed tortilla chips
Fresh lime wedges,
Chopped cilantro
Sour cream
Shredded cheese
Chopped chili peppers

Serve while hot and garnish with toppings.

Enjoy this souper easy recipe!

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