Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lentil Soup

Something that makes me very happy is having a freezer stocked with home cooked, ready to go meals.  I actually have a dream about having a walk-in freezer one day that's full of things I've made!  Well, maybe not a walk-in, but a freezer bigger than the apartment-sized one I have now :).  Some foods lend themselves particularly well to freezing and reheating, like muffins (as I've already talked about many times), and soup.  I like soup a lot and it has the potential to be really healthy, but prepared soups can be incredibly high in sodium and scary ingredients (hydrogenated fats, preservatives, flavor enhancers, etc).  So recently I decided to see if I could make my own soup at home so that I could control the ingredients and add it to my freezer stockpile.

My first stop was lentil soup.  It is delicious, and so full of fiber, protein, and veggies, making it a perfect lunch or light dinner with a big chunk of bread.  Plus, I've been looking for ways to eat more legumes.  I have a bit of a hard time with beans in general, but am starting to find some ways to work them into my diet.  First stop was chili, and lentil soup is also something I really enjoy - maybe it's the small size of the lentils or the fact that they break down so much in the soup?

I found the original recipe on Epicurious and made some changes based on the reviews to make it more flavorful.  The end result is delicious, easy to make, freezes well, and has gotten good reviews from everyone I've served it to - doesn't get any better than that! 



Lentil Soup
adapted from Epicurious

1/4 cup extra–virgin olive oil
2 medium-large onions (approx 4 cups)
2 cups celery
2 cups carrots
4 garlic cloves
8 cups low sodium, fat free chicken or vegetable broth (read ingredient lists on broth - some of them have the scary ingredients we're trying to avoid by making soup from scratch!)
1 16 oz bag red lentils (approx 2 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained (I have also used green lentils - the color isn't as pretty and the cooking time is about double, but the end result was just as delicious)
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoons cumin
Balsamic vinegar*
Parmesan or romano cheese

Heat oil in a large pot over medium–high heat.  Chop onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in a food processor and add to the pot.  (As a side note here, on one occasion I added broccoli and cauliflower to the veggie mix because I had it around and was looking to use them up, and the soup still came out great, so feel free to add whatever veggies you like!  You just may need to add some extra broth if it gets too thick.)  Saut√© until vegetables soften, about 15 minutes.  Add broth, lentils, tomatoes with juice, and cumin and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes (or about 45 for green lentils).

At this point you can either call the soup finished, or if you prefer a thicker consistency, use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot to your liking (recently I've been pureeing entirely; hubby prefers it chunkier).  Alternatively, you could transfer some of the veggies to a blender, puree, and add back to the soup.  Lightly season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve the soup with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of parmesan or romano cheese.

Makes approx 12 bowls of soup

*In my opinion, the balsamic vinegar really makes the soup.  But if you choose not to use the vinegar, you may want to season with a little extra salt and pepper to make it stand on its own.

3 comments:

  1. Just curious, do you have a brand of chicken broth you'd recommend? I also get a little overwhelmed in the grocery store (free-range, organic, low-sodium, all of the above???). Right now I think I'm using Pacific Natural Foods, but I can't say I've read the ingredients.

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  2. I usually buy the organic low sodium from Trader Joe's...it's cheap and has acceptable ingredients :) When I don't have that I'll sometimes buy the Imagine organic low sodium...don't know anything about Pacific Natural...I try for all of the above (free range, organic, low sodium!) but the choices are really overwhelming and it's hard to get everything! My priorities are generally 1) low sodium, 2) no scary ingredients (msg, partially hydrogenated, unknown chemicals, etc), 3) organic, and 4) free range if that helps :)

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  3. I have tried making several different lentil soup recipes and this by far is my fave! I never would have thought of adding the balsamic vinegar but wow... it really gives the soup that extra POP! And its kid approved... my finnicky 2 yr old ate it all up!

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