THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Cooking

As You Like It

Lentil soup gives the cook an enticing range of flavor possibilities.

By Adam Ried
March 22, 2009
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Single Page|
  • |
Text size +

I think of lentil soup as virtue in a bowl. The legumes are cheap, filling, and nutritious and also make a great blank slate for the cook. With caramelized onions, rice, and cinnamon, our first recipe assumes a distinct Middle Eastern stance, while the second, with cumin, coriander, mint, and red lentils, skews more toward North Africa. The last recipe, infused with flavors of ham, smoked paprika, and tomatoes, has a heavy Spanish influence. And it's from my first book, Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Soups.

Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onion, Rice, and Spinach

Makes about 3 quarts

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 large onions, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper

2 quarts low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

2large carrots, scraped and finely chopped

1 large stalk celery, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large bay leaves

1 cup dry white wine

1¼ cups du Puy lentils, picked over and rinsed

2/3 cup long-grain white rice

12 cups (about 6 ounces) loosely packed baby spinach

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

In a very large skillet set over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil and the butter until butter stops foaming. Add onions and 1 teaspoon salt, toss to coat, and cook until onions release some liquid, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring and scraping bottom of pot frequently (adjusting heat if needed), until onions are golden brown, about 40 minutes longer. Add 1 cup broth, increase heat to high, and use wooden spoon to scrape up brown film on bottom of pot so it dissolves into liquid, about 30 seconds. Set aside off heat.

Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, and bay leaves, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Add wine, increase heat to high, scrape up brown film on bottom of pot until it dissolves into the liquid, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add lentils and remaining 7 cups broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add rice, 1½ teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste, replace cover, and cook 20 minutes longer. Add onion mixture, stir, replace cover, and continue cooking until lentils and rice are tender, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaves, add spinach and vinegar, and cook until spinach wilts, about 1 minute. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, or vinegar, if necessary, and serve hot.

Spicy Red Lentil Soup

Makes about 2 ½ quarts

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large onions, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Pinch cayenne

2 large bay leaves

1½ cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth

2 cups tomato juice

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon dried mint

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus 1 lime cut into wedges

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and bay leaves, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils, broth, tomato juice, and 3 cups water, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add 1½ teaspoons salt and pepper to taste, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until lentils are fully tender and begin to split apart, about 45 minutes. Discard bay leaves, add mint, 6 tablespoons cilantro, and lime juice, and stir to mix. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, or lime juice, if necessary, and serve hot with lime wedges and remaining cilantro.

Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup with Serrano Ham and Smoked Paprika

makes about 3 quarts

You can substitute prosciutto for the Serrano ham.

...3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ pound sliced Serrano ham or prosciutto, cut into ribbons

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, finely chopped

1 large stalk celery, finely chopped

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

1 large bay leaf

1 cup dry red wine

1½ quarts low-sodium chicken broth

1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes

1½ cups du Puy lentils, picked over and rinsed

Salt and pepper

½ small bunch Swiss chard, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces, stem and leaf pieces separated

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add about a third of the ham, and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside. To the pot add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, paprika, thyme, bay leaf, and remaining ham, stir to mix, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine, broth, tomatoes, and lentils, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add 1¼ teaspoons salt and pepper to taste, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

In a blender, puree half of the lentil mixture (working carefully and in batches, if necessary) until smooth; return puree to pot. Increase heat to medium, add the chard stems, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the chard leaves, stir to submerge them, and continue cooking until they wilt, about 3 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve hot, garnishing with reserved crisp ham strips.

Third recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Soups, by Adam Ried; copyright©2009 by Williams-Sonoma Inc. and Weldon Owen Inc.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

  • Email
  • Email
  • Print
  • Print
  • Single page
  • Single page
  • Reprints
  • Reprints
  • Share
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Comment
 
  • Share on DiggShare on Digg
  • Tag with Del.icio.us Save this article
  • powered by Del.icio.us
Your Name Your e-mail address (for return address purposes) E-mail address of recipients (separate multiple addresses with commas) Name and both e-mail fields are required.
Message (optional)
Disclaimer: Boston.com does not share this information or keep it permanently, as it is for the sole purpose of sending this one time e-mail.