A couple of months ago I got two bags of French lentils from my sister, who had received them from my mom six months before that, who had gotten them from a neighbor who was moving away who knows how long ago. So that's a lot of people who have no idea what to do with lentils, including me. I made a lentil soup years ago that I felt pretty eh about. In an attempt to use these up, I also made lentil salad and it was fine, but definitely something that I will be craving never. This weekend I solved my lentil problem when I stumbled onto a Cook's Illustrated recipe for lentil soup. My CI cookbook really has not let me down yet, best cookbook I own for sure. The original recipe is for hearty lentil soup and then there were two variations, one with fragrant spices and one with spinach. I basically turned out a version that combined elements of all three and I couldn't be more pleased. Now I am jealously guarding my remaining lentils, so I can turn out more of this soup!
Hearty Lentil Soup with Spices and Spinach (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 medium carrots, chopped (I used 3 and food processed into same size as onions)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 (14.5 oz can) diced tomatoes, drained
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (I used a bit less than that of dried)
1 cup (7 oz) lentils
1 tsp salt (I omitted this bc I used regular chicken broth)
ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I used regular and omitted salt above)
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice (I didn't actually measure this)
5 oz frozen spinach (eyeballed how much I wanted!)
1. Fry bacon in Dutch oven over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until fat is rendered and bacon crisp.
2. Add the onion and carrots; cook, stirring until the veggies begin to soften (2 min).
3. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cook about 30 sec. Stir in tomatoes, bay leave and thyme, cook until fragrant ~30 sec. Stir in lentils, salt (if using), pepper, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook until veggies are softened and lentils have darkened, ~8-10 min.
4. Uncover, increase the heat to high, add the wine and bring to simmer. Add chicken broth and water, bring to boil, cover partially and reduce heat to low. Simmer until lentils are tender but still hold shape, 30-35 min. Discard bay leaf.
5. Puree 3 cups of soup until smooth and return to pot. Stir in lemon juice and frozen spinach, heat soup until hot and serve.
Note: If you have cilantro, chop some up to sprinkle over the soup. The timing above wasn't really followed by me, just use some common sense. It's a forgiving soup I think and tastes excellent.