There are moments when I think I’m a freaking culinary visionary… and then there are times when I’m awake and upright. But hear me out on this one thing… Lentils should be the next new superfood. They are VERY high in dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. They are EXTREMELY low in fat. They are important for anyone who is looking to lower their cholesterol and improve their heart health, and they provide an incredible amount of iron, which is quite significant for people who are eating a plant-centric diet. And hey, lentils are CHEAP. Lentils also help the environment by fixing nitrogen into the soil and preventing soil erosion. Here in the PNW, they are a shining star in thelocavore movement. But wait, there’s more! You want flavor? Lentils are high in glutamic acid, which means they’ve got umami… that savory, palate-pleasing rich taste that we associate with meats and other very flavorful foods.
So many perfect things about lentils, you’d think we eat them all the time over here. And we do. This is a recipe that I make once a week at the very least. It’s based on the book Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen interpreted by the blog Eggs on Sunday and tweaked some more by me.
Lentil Soup with Winter Greens, Cumin & Cilantro
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2-3 skinny carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced, including greens if abvailable
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 1/2 cups mixed lentils (I use green French, brown Pardina and small black Beluga lentils)
- A couple of pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper
- A handful of parsley and cilantro stems, tied together in a bundle
- 6 cups vegetable stock or 6 cups water plus 3 vegan bullion cubes (or a combination)*
- a few leaves of spinach, kale, chard or other sturdy green
- Chopped leaves of parsley and cilantro
- Squeeze of three of fresh lemon juice
- a few splashes of balsamic vinegar or tamari, if desired
- Plain whole yogurt or soy yogurt, if desired
Heat the oil over medium high heat in a stockpot or large saucepan, and then add the diced onion, carrot and celery. Cook until soft, then follow with the garlic. Add the bay leaves and cumin, followed by the lentils. Add the stock or water and bullion. Bring to a boil, then add the cilantro and parsley stems. Turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid from the pot and add the chopped greens. Simmer, uncovered, until the greens are tender. Stir in the chopped cilantro, and season to taste with more sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a bit of lemon juice (and more to your taste, if you like). For a little more umami, add a splash of balsamic vinegar or/and tamari. Serve with yogurt, if desired.
* Most of the stock I use in soups is usually a combination of on-the-fly veggie stock and pasta/rice/bean cooking water. I also like to pack along a few bullion cubes in my cook kit for extra oompf. I love Rapunzel brand because it is all natural, yeast and gluten free, and completely vegan; grab the salt-free version if you can.