When fall comes and winter stands waiting, I always think of soups. Lentil soup was one of my grandfather’s favorites. Herman Berghoff, the restaurant’s founder, loved lentil soup, put and kept it on the menu, and there is a terrific recipe for it in The Berghoff Family Cookbook.
I wanted to simplify the recipe without sacrificing any of the flavors so that Sarah and Lindsey could make it at college, and I could prepare it quickly at the end of a long day’s work.
To do this I took advantage of many of today’s wholesome convenience foods: bacon bits (inexpensive, low in calories, packed with flavor), jarred roasted red peppers (just drain and chop without having to roast and peel), peeled baby carrots (just slice), and green French puy lentils.
There are many varieties of lentils (which belong to the legume family): French green puy, Spanish brown, yellow, red, green lentils that come small, medium and large, brown-skinned lentils that have orange flesh inside, small crimson/red lentils and Macachiados or big Mexican yellow lentils.
They all have one thing in common: amazing nutritional value. Lentils are 26% protein and have the second highest ratio of protein to calorie content of all beans, after soybeans. We humans have been eating them for a long, long time. According to archeological evidence, lentils have been part of the human diet at least 9,500 years ago, and some evidence suggests up to 13,000 years ago.
Lentils have the additional benefit of cooking completely without presoaking like beans.
- 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
- 1 medium to large onion, chopped
- 1 cup thinly sliced peeled baby carrots
- 1 tablespoon bacon bits
- 1 cup drained, chopped jarred roasted red peppers (in water, not vinegar)
- 1 cup lentils, preferably French green puy, rinsed and picked over for debris
- 2 quarts plus 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 bay leaf
- In a 3-1/2 quart pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and carrot and sauté, stirring, until tender but not brown. Add bacon bits and stir.
- Add peppers, lentils, water, salt and bay leaf. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat so soup simmers briskly. Half-cover the pot with the lid ajar.
- Simmer until lentils are fully cooked, about 35 minutes.
Variations: For a vegetarian soup, omit bacon bits and substitute 1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke seasoning. Garnish finished soup with grated Parmesan or Cheddar cheese. Substitute brown lentils for green. Garnish soup with gluten-free croutons.
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