I bought some beautiful red lentils on a whim, knowing they are very high in protein and fiber, athough I’d never cooked with them. And then they sat for a few weeks, languishing in my pantry while I pondered what to do with them. My husband is vehemently against eating peas in any form, but I love split-pea soup, especially in winter. Despite the fact that our part of Texas seems to have elected to skip our usual three days of winter this year, I came home from work yesterday and declared it time for soup.
I gathered together my ingredients, which I carefully posed for a picture (above, top) before deciding against the lemon, and adding diced frozen, roasted sweet potato, and American cheese. I take a photo of my ingredients because I’m notorious for winging recipes and not writing them down. Then, when I try to recreate them, the second try isn’t as tasty as the first. Even with photos, I’m self-sabotaging.
The lemon wouldn’t be necessary to brighten up the soup, I reasoned, since I didn’t plan on using cream in it. The sweet potato needed to be used, and it would add flavor and pack even more nutrition into our dinner. I planned on grating American cheese to sprinkle on top of the soup, but I ended up adding about 2/3 of a cup to the soup, too. You’ll notice my chicken stock is unsalted. I didn’t add any salt to the soup, either. Instead, I used mellow white miso, to add a depth of flavor and saltiness.
I fried bacon until crispy, while dicing the carrot, and chopping onion. Once the bacon was out, I sauteed the carrots and onion in the bacon fat until they started to soften before adding roughly chopped garlic and the sweet potato. I let the veggies cook a few more minutes, while I rooted around in the freezer looking for a popsicle for my son. When a baggie of frozen organic tomato paste* fell on my foot, which I took it as a sign, and threw a cube into the pot. (Yet another ingredient not pictured above.) I gave the veggies another stir, and seasoned them with a pinch of chili powder, and three dashes of ground cumin. Next was the chicken stock, a little water, and the lentils. I simmered the soup until the lentils were tender, about half an hour.
I added the miso, a few generous grinds of black pepper, a pinch of dried Mexican oregano, and cheese, then used my immersion blender to cream the soup. Perfect! Light, but with a good body and flavor, this soup is filling but not a fat-bomb (despite the bacon and cheese). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Note to self: garlic bread is not the right accompaniment to this soup. The garlic overwhelmed the soup, and I’ll use regular toasted bread for my leftovers. This soup could easily be a #MeatlessMonday meal, if you skip the bacon and instead sautee the veggies in an oil of your choice such as olive or coconut oil, and sub vegetable stock for the chicken stock. I’d keep the cheese, though. Because, cheese.
Creamy Red Lentil Soup
3 strips bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup diced sweet potato
3-6 cloves garlic, diced (I used 3 gigantic cloves)
1 Tb. organic tomato paste (organic is worth the price — the taste is so much more robust)
3 dashes ground cumin
1 generous pinch chili powder (I used Ancho chili powder, but whatever you have will do)
1 quart unsalted chicken stock
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
2 Tb. mellow white miso (or more, to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of dried Mexican oregano
2/3 c. shredded American cheese (and a bit more to garnish the soup)
Fry bacon until crisp, and remove from pot. Sautee onion and carrot in bacon fat until starting to soften. Add garlic and sweet potato, and cook a few minutes more. Add tomato paste, cumin and chili powder, stirring well to combine. Pour in stock and water, then add lentils. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until lentils are soft. Add miso, pepper, oregano and cheese. Stir well, then using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a blender, working in batches, until the liquid is smooth and creamy. Serve topped with crumbled bacon and a little more cheese.
*I seem to always cook recipes that call for 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. Since I don’t want to waste the rest of the can, I portion out the remaining paste into tablespoon-sized dollops on a piece of plastic wrap, and freeze until firm. Then I can throw all the frozen lumps of goodness into a ziploc and save them for the next recipe that calls for it.