Let me start by apologizing to my mom. I’m sorry Mom.
Thankfully, she doesn’t use the internet and I don’t really go into detail with all of my posts so she can remain blissfully unaware of what I’m about to say.
I don’t like my mom’s beans.
There, I said it. My mom is an incredible cook, truly, but growing up I always hated eating beans and anything in the bean family. It doesn’t help that I’m Latino and rice and beans are staples in our diet so there was no avoiding it no matter how much I disliked them. Once I was old enough to start serving my own food, I discreetly added more rice and less beans and just sort of pushed them off to one side of my plate for easy disposal once I was done. Given my strong reaction against the things, I figured I just wasn’t a fan of beans and moved on.
That was until I started to go out for meals on my own and had my first real religious experience with beans. Okay, maybe religious experience is a bit extreme, but it was the first time I ate something in the bean family that not only didn’t want to make me hurl, but made me want to shovel more onto my plate and into my mouth because it tasted so damn good. It was when I realized that it wasn’t the beans fault, it was just the way my mom prepared them. Yikes. How was I going to avoid this landmine?
Luckily, I went away to college and I had four years to experiment with beans on my own to figure out the best flavor combinations that suited my tastes. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of figuring that out, but one particular legume that’s given me some trouble has been lentils.
Lentils are much simpler to make from scratch than say, red or black beans which require hours of soaking and boiling to get them soft and tasty. But you have to be careful with them too. Since they’re smaller and grittier in texture, you could end up with a mushy mess or end up in bland city. I’ve had issues getting this just right, but I think I finally figured it out with this recipe.
- 1 cup of green lentils, washed and rinsed
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- ½ large yellow onion, diced
- 3 cups of vegetable broth, low-sodium
- 1 generous cup of baby spinach
- 1 ½ tbsp of tomato paste
- 3 garlic cloves, mashed
- 2 tbsps of red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp of fresh thyme, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp of kosher salt
- ½ tsp of ground black pepper
*If you’d like to make this Paleo-friendly, just omit the red wine vinegar and replace with lemon. For gluten-free, check that the tomato paste, broth, vinegar, and lentils (if you’re using from a can) were produced without gluten. That’s it!
1. Place a 4 quart stock pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Allow it to heat for 30-45 seconds or until you can smell the oil, then add the garlic.
2. Saute garlic for 30 seconds. Add the carrots and onions and mix well. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and then add the tomato paste. Mix well.
3. Let the onions, carrots, garlic and paste to cook for 3-5 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Pour the vegetable stock into the pot and then throw in the lentils, salt, pepper, and thyme. Raise the heat to high and stir everything together. Wait for the soup to boil before reducing to a simmer and placing the lid.
4. Leave the soup to simmer. Keep your eye on it and stir often to make sure the lentils are mixed well . After 15-20 minutes, check to see if they’re softening up. If the soup consistency is too dry for you at this point, you can add another half cup of broth or water and mix well. Cover with the lid and give it another 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are completely cooked through.
5. Pour in the vinegar, mix well, and let it simmer for another 2 minutes. Lastly, add the spinach and stir into the soup until it begins to wilt. Turn off the heat after about 2-3 minutes.
6. Pour your serving into a bowl and…that’s it: ENJOY!! Serve with a side of crusty seeded bread or just eat it by itself as I did. It works either way. 🙂
This is a perfect base for any variation that you’d like to try with lentils. Consider removing the garlic and add curry spices (coriander, garam masala, cumin, cardamom, etc) and yogurt to give it a South Asian flair. Or you can keep it in season by adding leeks, sweet potatoes or squash, and hearty greens like Swiss chard. There’s a lot that you can do to really adapt this to what suits your taste.
Also, keep in mind that one cup of lentils gives you about 18g of protein, 16g of fiber and is also a great source of iron, potassium, folate and a number of vitamins and minerals, which makes this a hearty option for a healthy, meatless meal. It’s also incredibly cheap! I made all of this with what I had on hand in my kitchen and it cost me less than $10 to put it all together.
Cheap, healthy, meatless, and most importantly, delicious! Sorry mom, but this recipe is a keeper. 🙂