Almost twenty years ago, I ate a meal consisting wholly of lentils and vegetables at my friend Cheryl's house. I use the term ate rather loosely since I mostly pushed the food around on my plate, swallowed a few of the veggies without chewing, and fed many to a curmudgeonly Schnauzer ironically named Happy. I didn't know much at ten years old but I knew that I wasn't a fan of Cheryl's mom's vegetarian meals. Oh, and I also knew I was on the cutting edge of fashion, rocking tie-dyed tights and a denim jacket that I'd bedazzled the living daylights out of.
Not much has changed. Give me a plate of lentils and veggies and I'm sure my hunger will just magically disappear. I don't have a problem with veggies as a side but as a main course? Like I said, not hungry. I blame my parents for this mindset. See, I grew up in a primarily carnivorous house. I wasn't even aware of the notion of vegetable side dishes until I saw the trays of steamed, limp broccoli and cauliflower in the dorm cafeteria. Shocking, but that didn't trigger a sudden desire to eat more vegetables.
And then a couple of days ago, I took one of those online magazine quizzes that asks random questions about your eating habits. How many times a week do you eat sweets? Um, a lot. How many servings of vegetables do you eat a day? Um, not a lot. What is your favorite vegetable? Favorite or one I despise the least? Needless to say, it wasn't pretty. The magazine said I would keel over and die from lack of greens in my system. Oh, and I likely had scurvy.
Something had to change. I needed to make a meal with vegetables. And then, I decided to go for broke and make it a meal with vegetables and lentils. Trouble was, I had no idea what to make. So I typed recipe + vegetables + lentils into Google. Because when in doubt, one must turn to Google. Or their mom. But I was still holding mine accountable for raising me without vegetables (but man, such deliciously awesome meat dishes) so Google it was. And Google said... lentil soup.
That sounded harmless enough. I like soup. Clam chowder. Cream of mushroom. Lobster bisque. And suddenly, I found myself Googling recipes for even more cream-based soups. Like I said, I have trouble with focusing sometimes. I forced myself to focus on lentil soup again. A quick Google search yielded no less than thirty varieties of lentils. I looked in my pantry and saw a nondescript bag of lentils. A Cook's Thesaurus told me they were either brown lentils or masoor. In any case, I had no idea where they were from or how long they'd been sitting there. In other words, they were perfect.
The veggies weren't too disconcerting. Plus, they'd be cooked into oblivion and then pureed so I could handle that. I had the rest of the ingredients so I was good to go. Except well, I used turkey stock instead of the veggie stock. Because I couldn't give up the whole meat thing cold turkey. Heh.
And once it was ready, I basked in the smell of the warm spices and perfectly comforting texture. My first mostly-vegetarian meal in a long, long time. And so, I ladled out a giant bowl of soup, made some little garlic toasts, and had me a mostly-vegetarian lunch. Now if I only had my bedazzled jean jacket...
1 1/4 cup lentils, soaked in water
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 cup tomato puree
4 cups chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt & Pepper
Rinse lentils and soak in water, preferably overnight.
Heat oil in a stock pot. When oil is hot, saute onions, celery, and carrots. When vegetables are almost soft, add garlic and saute until garlic is fragrant. Drain lentils and add them to the vegetables. Add tomato puree and stock and let the entire mixture come to a boil. Lower heat, add cumin and coriander, and mix well. Cook covered for 45 minutes to 1 hour until lentils are soft. Taste the soup and adjust seasonings.
At this point, you'll have a delicious, chunky lentil soup. I prefer mine to have a smoother consistency so I pureed half the mixture and added it back to the pot and cooked it for another fifteen minutes.
Drizzle with Greek yogurt, or top with fresh chives, or even sharp cheddar. Definitely serve with garlic toast.
Adapted from Food Network.