So what do you make for dinner when you're exhausted? I could have opted for fast food and called it a day but, after browsing the food section in our Sunday paper, I found a simple soup recipe that called for ingredients I actually had on hand, which were lentils (I only had red lentils on hand), a container of store-bought stock, canned tomatoes and a few onions and carrots in the crisper.
Even though I had red lentils in my pantry which were purchased for another recipe, I had never cooked with them before. What a delightful surprise they turned out to be. I understand the main difference between red and brown lentils is the length of time of cook them - green lentils taking the longest amount of cooking time and holding their shape better. However, I found the flavor of the red lentils a little 'brighter', unless it was my tired brain playing tricks on me. I also appreciated the cheerful color of the soup. Not to demean brown lentil soup, I love it, but it just isn't pretty.
Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from Good Food Book by Jane Brody and seen in an article in the Feb. 27, 2011 issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried marjoram, crumbled
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
1 can (28 ounces) chopped tomatoes with juice
7 cups beef stock (I used beef but chicken stock or vegetable stock would also work well)
1-1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 ounces dry white wine (I used half that amount)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Croutons (recipe follows)
In a large saucepan, heat the oil and saute onions, carrots, marjoram and thyme, stirring occasionally, for about 5-7 minutes.
Add tomatoes, broth and lentils. Bring soup to a boil and then reduce heat, cover pan and simmer about 1 hour or until lentils are tender.
Add salt, pepper, wine and parsley and simmer soup another 10-15 minutes. Serve hot with toasted croutons and grated cheese.
3-4 slices of French bread, preferably frozen
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Pepper
Preheat oven to 350F
Place some olive oil in the palms of your hands and rub both sides of the bread lightly with the oil. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper on all sides of the bread. Remove crust and slice into cubes. Place the cubes on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 5-9 minutes or until lightly golden. They taste best if not over-baked.