Red Lentil Soup with Tomato Paste, Herbs & Spices
Lentils figure prominently in the plant-rich Mediterranean diet. Indeed, lentil soup is one of the staples of almost every cuisine around the Mediterranean and for good reason. This humble pulse is a nutritional powerhouse. There are many varieties of lentils that are native or popular around the Mediterranean and many varieties, like these red lentils, more typical of Indian cuisine, that have come to be embraced and co-opted as a Mediterranean ingredient. I’ve come to love them since having easy access to them both in my New York neighborhood, Jackson Heights, which has a large Indian population, and central Athens, which also has a budding Indian and Asian community and a bunch of aromatic grocery stores to accommodate them. Anyway, all it takes is some great Greek extra virgin olive oil, olives, and herbs to transform almost anything into delicious, healthy Mediterranean diet recipe!
- ½ cup extra virgin Greek olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 large red or yellow onion chopped
- 1 large carrot peeled and diced
- 1 celery rib trimmed and diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste preferably Santorini
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
- Greek sea salt to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Pinch of ground chile powder or cayenne or more to taste
- 1 1/2 cups red lentils
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 large fresh or dried bay leaf
- Juice of 1/2 lemon more to taste
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over high heat until hot. Add the onion. Saute until soft and the onion lightly golden, about 4 -5 minutes, stirring. Add the carrot and celery and reduce heat to medium. Cook until the carrot starts to soften, about 6 to 7 minutes, then stir in the garlic and stir for a few seconds.
Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
Add the lentils and stir to coat in the olive oil.
Add the broth, 2 cups of water, and the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
Remove the bay leaf. Using an immersion or regular blender or food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Reheat and stir in the lemon juice and cilantro or parsley.
Serve soup drizzled with additional olive oil.
Love soup? Check out my online class “Comfort in a Soup Bowl!”