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Red lentils allow quick, hearty meal | TribLIVE.com
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Red lentils allow quick, hearty meal

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Coco Morante
Red Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is comforting, simple and easy to throw together with the bare minimum of ingredients. It’s my go-to when I want something hearty but healthy, when my body needs a reset from a spate of indulgent eating, or when I’m tasked with feeding vegetarian or vegan friends on a chilly day. This pared-down red-lentil version is the one I make most often, and it never fails to please.

Red lentils are perfect for weeknights or whenever you’re in a hurry to get a meal on the table. Because of how they’re processed, de-husked and split before packaging, they cook more quickly than any other variety of legumes, although they are slightly lower in fiber than the larger whole varieties. Also note that while they’re a lovely salmon pink in the package, their color changes as they cook, fading to a golden yellow hue as they melt into a soup, stew or curry.

But their speediness is so appreciated. A half-hour is all it takes to go from stovetop to table, and much of that time can be spent doing something else.

While the soup is simmering, you’ve got some time to figure out what to serve alongside it. I often pair lentil soup with crusty bread, toasting it with a drizzle of olive oil and some shredded parmesan cheese if I’m feeling indulgent. Slice your bread thick enough to tear off nice big hunks, perfect for dunking and swabbing up the last few drops of soup.

As a finishing touch, consider topping your bowls with a swirl of peppery olive oil, a dollop of tangy yogurt or my personal favorite, gremolata. This simple combination of chopped garlic, parsley and lemon zest gives the soup a punch of freshness, brightening the bowl.

Coco Morante is a writer for TheKitchn.com, a blog for people who love food and home cooking.

Red Lentil Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large carrot, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

1 small yellow onion, diced

14 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste

1 cup red lentils

4 cups water or low-sodium broth

1 whole bay leaf

2 tablespoons lemon juice from 12 large lemon

Olive oil, yogurt or other topping, for garnish

In a medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, onion and 14 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine, then cover and let the vegetables sweat until the onions are soft and translucent, for about 5 minutes.

Add the lentils, the water or broth, and the bay leaf. Bring it to a boil, and then turn the heat down to low and let it simmer, covered, until the lentils begin to fall apart, for about 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and add salt to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with a garnish, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

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