I love lentils. It’s a deep enduring love, not a summer romance, nor a fleeting flirtation. It’s a love that lasts. Men come and go, but lentils are forever, that’s what my mother taught me.
My friend Judy has the same feeling I do about lentils. She seems to have an endless supply of lentil recipes, some rely on French green lentils, and some the lovely red lentil, and last but not least, the black Beluga Lentil. What’s great about French green lentils and black beluga lentils is that they hold their shape nicely – in other words, they don’t go to mush in the pot. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, one of my other great loves is a good tomato. It isn’t that easy to put one’s hands on a good tomato these days. Many of them have that whole mealy, tasteless thing down to a science. The Italians, for some reason, still know how to grow a really good tomato and this leaves me with a terrible dilemma. I’m all about buying local, but deep down inside me I long to make an exception for canned Italian tomatoes. I’m certain that their carbon footprint is BIG, like at least a size 10, or maybe an 11. Those cans are HEAVY and clearly weigh down container ships on their way to the west coast of these United States. If you have more “buy local” discipline than I do, go for the US canned tomatoes. Try the fire roasted ones, they’ve got a lot of flavor. Regular, everyday crushed tomatoes will do just fine as well. This makes a large pot of soup and it works well the second and third day.
Beluga Lentil Soup (6-8 servings)
- 2 cups black beluga lentils (or green French lentils), picked over and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably Italian)
- 2 cups water, chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 3 cups of a big leafy green (chard, kale, spinach) rinsed well, deveined, and finely chopped
- 1 cup chopped carrots (optional)
- 1 cup chopped celery (optional)
Saffron Yogurt for garnish
- a pinch of saffron (30-40 threads)
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- 2 pinches of salt
- 1/2 cup 2% Greek Yogurt (if you can’t put your hands on Greek Yogurt use whole milk plain yogurt instead)
Vegans can skip the yogurt entirely and garnish the soup with a generous drizzle of good olive oil.
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add the lentils, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
While the lentils are cooking, make the saffron yogurt by combining the saffron threads and boiling water in a tiny cup. Let the saffron steep for a few minutes. Now stir the saffron along with the liquid into the yogurt. Mix in the salt and set aside.
Once the lentils are done, heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat, then add the onion, carrots, celery and salt and sauté until tender, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, lentils, 2 cups of water or broth and continue cooking for 15 more minutes, letting the soup come back up to a simmer. Stir in the chopped greens, and wait another minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be. Ladle into bowls, and serve with a dollop of the saffron yogurt.
- Try it with a poached egg on top
- or crunchy, fried shallots,
- or with a drizzle of chive infused cream,
- or with chunks of tiny pan-fried butternut squash cubes.
- or make a thicker version by using just a half a cup of water/broth, and then spoon it over an omelet in the morning
- or you can finish the soup by adding your favorite spices or spice blends. Smoked paprika, crushed chilies, and or toasted cumin, would all work nicely.