How to make delicious lentil soup
Hearty, healthful, and satisfying, this lentil soup is great when the weather turns cooler. I started with a basic lentil soup recipe and tweaked it to my own taste. This simple, quick, and tasty, variation on the classic recipe uses diced tomatoes, which add depth and give it a nice color…unless of course, you prefer the classic grayish-greenish lentil soup look. You can change a few ingredients and make this a vegetarian or vegan dish if you wish.
- 2 carrots, small dice
- 3 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 quarts of chicken or beef stock (or the equivalent of bouillon cubes and water)
- 1 pound dried lentils, rinsed well and drained
- 1 small can diced tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
- grated cheese (Romano or Parmasan)
- cooked ham cubes or smoked ham hock
To make this a vegan dish, use olive oil instead of bacon, substitute vegetable stock instead of beef or chicken stock, and omit the meats and cheese.
Use a 3 or 4 quart pot.
If using bacon, cook the bacon until all of the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels for later. Remove and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. If not using bacon, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the hot pot.
Sauté the onions, carrots and garlic until soft. about 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes with the juice, lentils, bay leaf, thyme, and stock to the pot. If using smoked ham hock, add it to the pot. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Mash about half of the lentils with a fork and spoon to thicken soup. Continue simmering (covered) for another 15 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. If you used a ham hock, remove it and set aside.
Add the balsamic vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with cooked ham cubes or shredded ham hock. Top with grated cheese and reserved bacon.
Vegetarian/Vegan version: Omit the bacon and/or ham hock and use olive oil to sauté the onions, carrots, and garlic. Substitute vegetable stock for the bouillon cubes, and of course, skip the ham cubes.
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