Lentils. They’re the forgotten step-child of the legume world. In the supermarket you typically find them available dried, in one of those sad looking plastic bags, on the very bottom shelf. You have to look past all those shiny cans of black beans and garbanzo’s. Even the split peas are more enticing, with their cheerful bright green color. Nobody thinks about those poor lentils.
They’re like that dowdy girl everyone knew in high school. The one with the glasses and the enormous saxophone case. No one realized she’d grow up to be a gorgeous, globe trotting rock star. Yeah. Lentils are a lot like that.
Cheap and boring to look at. But once you get them out of the bag and into a pot….once you give them a little makeover by rinsing them and picking out any bits and mixing them with a saute of onions and carrots and celery. Wow. Those lentils are something!
In fact, I can distinctly remember the very first time I tried lentils. It was my very first time flying overseas. I flew Air France, arguably the best foodie airline EVER, what with the free wine and fresh baked baguettes and cheeses. When they served the incredible lunch it included a cold lentil salad. Being a college-aged kid from the midwest at the time my gastronomic experiences were pretty limited so this salad was a REVELATION. Lentils were a revelation.
Not only a tasty revelation but…they’re so cheap! They’re full of protein and fiber and all those good things we should all be eating lots of. You can keep a few bags squirreled away in your cupboard forever and, unlike dried beans, they don’t require soaking. Lentils rock.
The funny part is…kids get it. They GET the lentil. Unlike lettuces and other suspicious veggies, lentils are typically an easy sell and they’re also great for mixing with other veggies. When I tell Lillian we’re making lentil soup she is all over it. She will eat BOWLS of this stuff. So its become a go-to weeknight recipe for us. I try to keep several bags of lentils stashed in my cupboard, “just in case.” The soup recipe below is incredibly adaptable….if you’ve got chicken broth, throw it in. If not, use water. You don’t have carrots? No biggie. Just up your celery quotient. Want to throw in a handful of kale? Excellent idea!
Even though this is a hearty soup it’s still light enough for a summertime dinner, especially when served alongside a loaf of crusty bread and a crisp garden salad. In fact, the next time I make it I think I might try doing it in the slow cooker so I can avoid turning on the oven in the summertime heat. If it works out, I’ll post an update.
Of course, now that the weather is heating up, I’m also getting a taste for cold lentil salad too. Since I doubt Air France is willing to share their recipe, I think I’ll try out one of these drool-worthy recipes:
Do you have any favorite lentil recipes? Share them with us!