Lentils are popular in all cultures where a lot of beans are eaten because they are so simple to prepare. They need no soaking and they cook up in no time. They’re inexpensive and available year-round. Although they come in green, brown, red, or black varieties, skip the red lentils for this easy soup; they’ll just dissolve into mush. Instead, use either green (sometimes called French lentils or lentils du Puy), brown, or black lentils; the green or black ones will hold their shape and texture better to make a brothier, lighter meal; the brown ones will break down a bit and give the soup a richer, thicker consistency. It’s your call for your preference—feel free to adjust this lentil soup recipe to your liking.
1⁄2 pound (1 1⁄4 cups) green, black, or brown lentils
7 cups (1 quart plus 3 cups) vegetable broth
2 large red globe, beefsteak, or heirloom tomatoes, chopped (about 1 1⁄2 cups)
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
2 bay leaves
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Finely chopped scallions, for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
Spread the lentils on a large baking sheet and pick them over for any bits of stone.
Stir the lentils, broth, tomatoes, onion, carrots, potatoes, bay leaves, and salt in a large saucepan or soup pot.
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Reduce to low heat, set a lid askew over the pan or pot, and cook until the lentils are soft, for 45 minutes.
Discard the bay leaves.
Ladle the soup into bowls.
Garnish each with scallions and up to 1 teaspoon olive oil.
Tip: For extra flavor, cook the chopped onion and carrot in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 5 to 7 minutes in the saucepan or soup pot set over medium heat before adding the remainder of the ingredients indicated in step 1.
Tip: Change the recipe a little by adding up to 1 cup packed baby spinach, baby kale, baby arugula, stemmed watercress, or a mixture of any to the soup after it has simmered for 35 minutes. Continue cooking with the lid askew for 10 minutes, until the lentils are tender and the greens have wilted.
Tip: For an easier prep, use frozen chopped onion (no need to thaw).
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