Author Gertrude Stein once wrote, "A rose is a rose is a rose." But, she never would have written, "A lentil is a lentil is a lentil." Not if she had tasted French green lentils, that is.
The tiny green morsels from which this soup is made are far different from those flat brown ones you may have come to know. They are much smaller and sweeter, yet have an indescribably delicate, peppery, earthy flavor. A discovery to be sure.
But, in addition to tasting great, they are more than one-fourth protein by weight, making them the plant-based food that's third highest in protein, behind only soybeans and hemp. They also are low in fat and high in fiber. Chefs and foodies like them, too, because they hold their shape well and don't tend to get soft and mushy.
Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, speaking for the American Dietetic Association, highly recommends making legumes, which include lentils, beans and peas, a regular protein source because they taste delicious and can help with weight loss.
"The fiber, protein and water in legumes are a magic trio that make people feel fuller faster and stay full longer," she said. "So, it's easier to limit calories without feeling deprived."
Most of us don't eat enough fiber, she added. "One cup of cooked legumes provides about 12 grams of fiber, which is nearly half of the 21 to 25 grams suggested for women (daily) and about a third of the 30 to 38 grams suggested for men."
Kay Stepkin is a vegetarian cooking class instructor and former owner of a vegetarian restaurant/bakery. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TipsThis recipe will work using any type of potatoes or lentils (except the red ones; they will disintegrate during cooking). You can either buy the vegetable stock or make your own, using the recipe provided.
Spiced lentil soup
Prep: 30 minutes Cook: 1 hourMakes: 10 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil1 onion, chopped5 potatoes, cut into 1-inch dices2 cloves garlic, minced2 each, cut into 1/2-inch pieces: carrots, celery ribs2 bay leaves1 teaspoon ground cumin1/4 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon1/8 teaspoon each: ground cloves, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, black pepper1 1/2 cups French green lentils2 quarts homemade or commercial vegetable stock, see recipe1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce1/4 cup each, chopped: cilantro, parsley
1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil; heat. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until translucent, 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, garlic, carrots and celery; cook 5 minutes. Add bay leaves, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, red pepper flakes and black pepper.
2. Sort the lentils; rinse. Add to the saucepan. Add the stock. Cover; heat to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer; cook until lentils and vegetables are tender, about 50 minutes.
3. Transfer 2 cups of the lentils with a little of the stock to a blender; puree. Return to the saucepan. Stir in the soy sauce, cilantro and parsley.
Vegetable stock: Save ends of carrots, celery, onions and onion skins as you cook other recipes. Freeze in a plastic bag. Put 3-4 cups saved vegetables in a soup pot; add 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt. Cover with water. (Other cut up vegetables can be added). Heat to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook 1 hour. Strain.
Nutrition InformationPer cup: 156 calories, 17% of calories from fat, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 28 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 119 mg sodium, 6 g fiber