Monday, January 3, 2011

My Favorite Lentil Soup

Back in my travel-for-work days, I stayed regularly at a beautiful Hyatt in Reston, Virginia. This hotel was surrounded by great restaurants and shops. Though I had my pick of what I could eat, the thing I wanted most to see after working late for several days, was a pillow. Fortunately, there was room service paid for by my company (bonus!). The healthiest thing on their menu was the lentil soup and I could not wait to get it! 

Since then, I have contacted the chef at the hotel to get the recipe. At first, it looked promising, but then nothing. Below is the recipe I came up with that mimicks the one I ate in Northern Virginia (to the best of my ability). It's VERY close to what I ate in Virginia and very good. I have tried other recipes--Heidi Swanson's recipe seemed good enough, but still wasn't as good (in my humble opinion). We just keep coming back to this one below for the last couple years. And I'm not sure I'm going to budge anymore.

Lentil soup is healthy comfort food at its finest....even my toddler can't get enough. A lot of people like to add potatoes in their soup--I don't--but you are welcome to add a diced potato in with the lentils. Also, if you are vegan, you can skip the Parmesan cheese. But the Parmesan cheese and zucchini are my 'secret' ingredients. And lastly, if you like, you can also add a big dollop of plain, fat-free, Greek yogurt in each plate when serving (in addition or instead of the Parmesan cheese).


Serves about 8

2 cups lentils, rinsed well
7 cups of water or chicken stock (I like to do half water & half vegetarian 'chicken' broth)
1 Tbsp. of olive oil (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, un-drained (fire roasted are good too)
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ tsp. cumin
Few dashes of parsley
Few dashes of marjoram (optional)
Juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed
2 small-medium sized zucchini, finely chopped
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. light Parmesan-style topping, or Vegan grated soy parmesan

Place washed lentils, chopped onions, celery, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, oil (if using) and spices in water and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Taste. If the lentils still seem crunchy, continue to cook for 5-10 minutes more until they soften. Add lemon juice, zucchini, and parmesan cheese and let simmer for 5 more minutes.

Makes ~8-10 servings.

*Can be made in slow cooker-cook: Just add all ingredients (but cheese and zucchini) in the crock pot and leave heat on low for about 8 hours. Check the 'doneness' of the lentils and continue to cook until the lentils have softened. Add the zucchini & parmesan 15 minutes before soup is done.

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