I've been doing the whole mostly-vegetarian whole foods thing for about four years now. Although I bake my own bread, make kale chips, and subscribe to a CSA, until now I've always felt like a bit of an imposter. Why? I couldn't make lentil soup. Yes, I have a great vegetarian chili recipe and we eat lots of tofu, but I felt like lentil soup is something that a mostly-vegetarian should have mastered by now. This notion is about as valid as my teenage theory that once you become an adult you magically know how to do your taxes, but my lentil soup failures were still a cause of disproportional disappointment. Over the years, I've made lentil soups that were basically rock-hard lentils in warm water, others that erred in the opposite direction and were the consistency of Dickensian gruel, pathetically bland lentil soups, and lentil soups that were a cacophony of competing flavors (and not in a good way).
But I am pleased to report that I have finally mastered a lentil soup recipe and am now a bona fide mostly-vegetarian. Unlike my previous efforts, this recipe uses red lentils, which cook more quickly and seem more foolproof than their green cousins (my supermarket stocks red lentils in the Indian section of the ethnic foods aisle). This recipe also benefits from its fairly simple flavor profile. As originally written, it seemed a bit dull, so I upped the vegetable quantities and added some curry powder. It's a straightforward soup, quick enough for a weeknight but interesting enough to make you look forward to the next day's lunch leftovers. And if it makes you feel more legit about your cooking skills, that's an added bonus.
Adapted from the Kitchn recipe by Coco Morante
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced celery (about 4 ribs)
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half of one lemon)
Heat Dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil and tilt to evenly coat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and salt and stir until vegetables are evenly coated with salt and oil. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, until onions are softened.
Add lentils, broth, 2 cups water, bay leaf, and curry powder. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until lentils have begun to fall apart and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Stir in lemon juice and additional salt to taste if desired.