With a July birthday, I am a summer baby through and through. I need warmth, sunshine, long days, and bare feet. When the season starts to change, the days become shorter, the air becomes a little crisper, I usually go into a mild form of denial, clinging to the last shreds of hope that summer might last forever. But when the leaves start to change, as they are right now, even I have to admit that fall is on our doorstep. So to ease the transition, I make a big batch of lentil soup. It's warm, it's earthy, and it's so delicious that it makes fall seem like something to look forward to rather than to dread. After all, apple picking, cinnamon, and pumpkins aren't so bad. So make a pot of this soup, and welcome fall with open arms. Just don't you dare remind me that winter is right around the corner!
(Side Note: This probably doesn't apply at all to folks back home in Texas where they're still facing a couple months of extreme heat. In your case, maybe it's best to crank up the AC, make a batch of this soup, and keep the faith that fall will someday arrive and provide a relief from the heat!)
(recipe modified from the Lentil Vegetable Soup in Lucinda Scala Quinn's fabulous cookbook Mad Hungry)
2 Tb olive oil
3/4 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 tsp salt
~6 baby bella mushrooms, diced
1 or 2 canned whole tomatoes, diced (or 1 small fresh tomato)
1 Tb tomato paste
1 3/4-2 cups lentils
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
~1/4 tsp black pepper
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 cups water
1 chicken bouillon cube, roughly chopped to help dissolve
(you could also use 5 cups stock and 1 cup water to avoid using a bouillon cube)
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Heat a dutch oven or large pot over med-high heat. Add olive oil, and once heated, add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and 1 tsp of the salt. Stir and then reduce heat to medium.
After about 2 minutes, add in the mushrooms, stir to combine, and let cook for another 2-3 minutes until vegetables have started to soften.
Add the tomato and cook for 2 more minutes. Then add the tomato paste, stirring to combine, and cook for another 2 minutes.
Next, add the thyme, bay leaf, and black pepper to the pot. Stir to combine, and after about a minute add in the lentils, broth, water, bouillon cube, and remaining 1 tsp of salt.
Turn the stove to high and let the mixture come up to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and let simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are tender.
(Note: I prefer a lentil-heavy soup, but if you want a thinner soup, add in a little more water at this point. Just heat it up in the microwave before adding.)
Stir in red wine vinegar to give it a little brightness, add salt and pepper to taste if needed, and serve alongside some crusty bread or a side salad.