Hardly a week goes by that I don’t make some variety of soup for dinner. Because I love meals I can cook on the stove top, I certainly don’t mind standing and chopping the veggies… when all is chopped, the soup cooks itself, and doesn’t require my full attention like a stir-fry or making doughnuts.
Progresso Lentil Soup has long been a favorite. When the best male cook I know and I lived in Michigan we ate our weight in Progresso’s soup. Now, with several more mouths to feed, more attention paid to ingredient lists, more awareness about sodium in processed foods, and more thermoses to fill (does a thermos scream geek or not when packed in a lunchbox? Post your comments) making Lentil Soup from scratch is a nutritious, and economical choice.
The lens or button-shaped lentil is a cousin of a dried bean, and both are a part of the legume family. All legumes are seeds that grow within pods. In fact, lens is the Latin word for lentil. The size and appearance of lentils varies depending on the variety. The outer seed coat can be mottled or speckled, and ranges in color from reddish-brown to grayish-brown to green. Look for lentils sold in a bag, or a box, in the aisle of your market where rice and other dried beans are sold. Lentils are loaded with fiber, complex carbohydrates, and folic acid. Folic acid is a very important nutrient especially for women of childbearing age. One cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of the recommended daily allowance for folic acid, and lentils provide more folic acid than any other unfortified food. Lentils are also an important source of iron, especially for women whose iron needs are greater during childbearing years.
Lentils are relatively simple to prepare. Begin by placing the uncooked lentils in a colander and raking them with your fingers, removing any debris or dirt. Rinse the lentils with cool water and cook as instructed in the recipe. Do not add salt to lentils until after they are soft and cooked.
Easily doubled – just be sure to use a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Extra portions can be frozen, thawed and reheated when a quick meal is in order.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 teaspoons dried marjoram or oregano
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
6 ounces (3/4 cup) dry white wine (optional)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil in a large saucepan, and cook the onions, carrots, thyme, and marjoram, for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the tomatoes (and their juice), broth and lentils. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer the soup for about 1 hour or until the lentils are tender. Add the salt, pepper, wine and parsley, and simmer the soup for a few minutes longer. Serve hot.