Earthy and hearty, brown lentils keep their shape when gently simmered, which makes for a richly textured soup. And when pureed, they turn soft, plush and wonderfully smooth.
In this recipe, I’ve kept things minimal and straightforward. You’ll only need to chop one onion, sauteing it until well browned at the edges to maximize its sweetness. You’ll also have to grate (or press) some garlic, to be stirred in at the end for a pungent pop. But that’s it for the prep work.
Because the soup itself is so simple, using a good, intensely flavored broth is important. But even a bouillon cube will do in a pinch. Just don’t use water, which won’t provide enough flavor to stand up to the lentils.
You could serve the soup on its own, letting its inherent simplicity shine. But it works even better as the savory base for an array of garnishes — just a little something sliced, crumbled or dolloped for color and verve.
I love a combination of parsley and sliced radicchio or cabbage for crisp freshness, almost like serving soup and salad in the same bowl. But use whatever you have, as long as it adds a contrasting flavor or texture — or both — to the softness of the soup.
Crumbled bacon, cheeses, sliced olives or avocado add richness. Tomatoes, pickled peppers or vegetables, citrus or yogurt lend a bit of zip. Spices give the soup depth, chilies give it heat. And for crunch, try sesame seeds, nori or even flaky sea salt sprinkled on at the very last second, before it has a chance to submerge and melt.
EASIEST LENTIL SOUP
By Melissa Clark
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, aplus more as needed
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed
- 1 quart chicken, beef or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
- 1 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed
- 2 thyme or rosemary sprigs
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or pressed
- 1 teaspoon white-wine, sherry or cider vinegar, or lemon or lime juice, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced radicchio, or red or green cabbage (optional)
- 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
>> NOTE: Ideas for toppings include dairy (yogurt or sour cream, cheese); spices (toasted cumin seeds, chili flakes); vegetables and tart fruit; or salty finishes (chopped cooked bacon, sliced olives, crumbled nori, sesame seeds and sesame oil).
Heat 1/4 cup oil in medium pot over medium- high. Stir in onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until onions start to brown at edges, stirring frequently, 6 to 9 minutes.
Stir in stock, lentils, thyme and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs.
Stir in garlic, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and use an immersion blender to puree soup to desired consistency, keeping it chunky or making it smooth. (Or, ladle it into a blender and blend in batches.) Stir in vinegar, then taste and add more salt and vinegar if needed.
In a small bowl, toss radicchio, if using, and parsley with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a small mound of radicchio and parsley, and/or any other garnishes you like. Serves 4 to 6.
Nutritional information unavailable.