Classic Lentil Soup

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: About 1 hour

This recipe is about as easy as cooking can be, especially for a dish so filling and nutritious. Unlike the overly thick versions that put so many people off, this lentil soup is nicely balanced.

1 cup dried lentils, washed and picked over

1 bay leaf

Several sprigs fresh thyme or a few pinches dried

1 carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch dice

6 cups vegetable stock or water, or more as needed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

01 Put the lentils, bay leaf, thyme, carrot, celery, and stock in a deep skillet or medium saucepan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

02 Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir, then cook for 1 minute more and turn off the heat.

03 When the lentils are tender, fish out the bay leaf and thyme sprigs and stir the onion mixture into the soup. (The soup may be made ahead to this point, cooled, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat gently.) Add more stock if the soup is too thick, then taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Variations

French-Style Lentil Soup with Sorrel or Spinach. Best with Lentilles du Puy. Wash and chop 1/4 pound sorrel or spinach. In Step 2, instead of olive oil use 3 tablespoons butter. After the onions have cooked, stir in the sorrel or spinach and 1 teaspoon sugar. Finish the soup as directed, but if you’re using spinach, add a squeeze of lemon.

Elegant Lentil Soup. Start with the basic recipe or the preceding variation. Let the soup cool if you have time, then use an immersion blender to purГ©e the soup in the pan. Or cool the mixture slightly, pour it into a blender, and purГ©e carefully. Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently before serving.

Italian-Style Lentil Soup with Rice. Approaching whole-meal status. Increase the amount of stock to 2 quarts. Prepare the soup through Step 1 and start cooking the onions and garlic in Step 2. After the lentils have been cooking for about 15 minutes, stir in 1/2 cup short-grain rice, preferably Arborio. Add 1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned are fine) to the pan with the onion. Pass freshly grated Parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil for drizzling at the table.