Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Vegetarian: Lentil Soup

Many of us are entering into what I like to call “Soup Season”.  Lots of areas of the US are being hit with cold and some even with snow.  Regardless of the weather you are currently experiencing, don’t you like to think of December as a time to seek out food that nourishes you body and soul?
Every year, as I enter into winter, I feel a slight sense of relief.  For me, the summer and early fall tend to be constant movement and busy-ness.  I tend to be more social, juggling many activities as I attempt to get the most I can out of warm weather.  By the time the cooler weather hits, I realize that I need this change of season; I need to be forced to slow down, regroup, reflect, and rejoice over the little things in life.  Now is the time to hibernate and recharge my batteries.
Don’t you think soup is the perfect food for all of these winter “to dos”?  Making and eating soup, for me at least, is not just a physical act, it is a spiritual act.  It is about deep nourishment, the creation of something that will fill my belly and force me to slow down and savor life.
One of my favorite types of soup is lentil.  What a wonderful little legume!  How beautiful, delicious, and versatile!  My mother has some wonderful lentil soups in her repertoire and over time I have discovered some as well.
Here is a recipe that I’ve played with over time.  It draws from a soup that my mother makes and the ratio of lentil to water is taken from the Chunky Lentil recipe in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking.
1 1/2 cups green lentils
5 cups water
olive oil
4 or more garlic cloves diced
1 onion, chopped
3-4 stalks of celery
3-4 carrots
1 medium potato, chopped
1 winter squash peeled and chopped into one inch chunks
1 can stewed tomatoes
3 handfuls of green, stems removed chopped into long strips
2 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper
Garnish: If you want to go more Greek tasting, feta and red wine vinegar.  If you want an Italian flavor, add Parmesan and basil leaves.
Notes: Much of this recipe is from experimenting, so my quantities are never exact.  For the squash, I like spaghetti squash and I’ve tried butternut but I think acorn could work well too!  With garlic, I always lean toward massive amounts since I just love it.  If you are not a garlic fan, use less.  And for the greens, I used a mix of kale and collard, but use whatever you enjoy (or exclude it altogether).  Depending on the type of green, you may need more or less since different varieties like spinach cook down a great deal but others such as kale do not cook down as much.  Please play with this recipe and add whatever you have on hand!
Serves 6-8
Vegetable Lentil
1. Cook lentils in water in a big soup pot after rinsing and picking the lentils over.  This should take around 15-20 minutes, cook just until they are tender and drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat some oil over medium heat and toss in the garlic.  Once it begins to cook up, throw in the onions and celery and potato.  When they begin to become somewhat translucent and soft, go ahead and add the carrots.  Keep stirring occasionally and once they are all a little soft, add the squash.  After about 5 minutes over medium-low heat, transfer the veggies to the lentil pot.
3.  Add stewed tomatoes with a little bit of their liquid, add the greens, and add the vegetable broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Allow everything to simmer over low heat for about 5-10 minutes, until the greens have wilted and everything is nice and warm.
Mmmm, enjoy as is or serve with some of the garnishes I suggested above.  I hope this lentil soup fills you up and warms your bones!

  1. Gretchen

    Thanks so much for sharing your spiritual soup. It looks lovely and I will try it soon even though it’s high 70s here in Tucson.

    I love lentils.

    I love soup.

    I love to experiment.

    Thank you. Thank you

  2. You surprised me when you said you added “spaghetti squash” as your winter squash. Does it retain its cubed shape? I always picture spaghetti squash as breaking down into those spaghetti-like strands — or does that not happen here?

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