Diversifying Lentils

Weekdays can get pretty busy, so I like taking a little time on the weekend to make a big batch of soup so I can warm a bowl, toss together a sandwich, and have a healthy lunch in minutes when time isn't on my side. A little planning ahead helps me. Particularly for weekday lunch soups, I enjoy making fun vegetarian blends that take ingredients from different world cuisines and present them in new ways. Here's a case in point:

That beautifully colored soup is loaded with roasted salsa tomatoes, tender red lentils and some of my favorite seasonings of all time. The flavor blends (literally) Middle Eastern and Tex-Mex cuisine in a way that pairs beautifully with everything from quesadillas to falafels. It's also a surprisingly hearty soup for having no meat in it. I credit the versatile lentils that get blended into it. In fact, while I'm often putting together a big bowl of soup to have with lunch, when this one's on the menu, it is usually more like a half bowl or cup.

When I make this soup, I usually ladle it into a couple of quart jars and keep it in the back of the refrigerator. When I find myself ready for lunch, I can simply pour some into a bowl or cup and microwave it. Presto! Instant lunch. It also freezes well, so you can make a batch and enjoy it much later if you'd like. Hooray for the versatile lentil!

Southwestern Lentil Soup

  • 2 T. olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) fire-roasted salsa-style diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. dried red lentils
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 3 1/2 c. vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add the undrained tomatoes, red lentils, cumin, and smoked paprika; stir well and heat an additional 5 minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and cover the stock pot. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup to create a smooth base. Alternately, you could transfer the soup in small batches and carefully process using a blender. Once the soup has been fully blended, add the seasonings, taste the soup, and adjust accordingly before serving.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

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