I love lentils — they’re so versatile and healthy, and they basically assume the taste of anything you mix them with. Some prefer whipping up a salad, but my lentil dish of choice is a hearty soup that can be eaten at any time of year (you can even eat it cold).
Lentils come up as No. 2 in the rankings of beans with the highest protein, second only to soybeans. They’ve got a very high fiber content, and are great for heart health. Add some scallions, a dollop of sour cream, and some spicy Italian sausage, and you’ve got a soup that’s good for body and soul.
My mom has been making lentil soup since I was a kid. I’ve enjoyed having it on cold and windy days when the sky is dark gray, and I’ve had it outside on warm spring days when I’m craving something fresh-tasting. The first step toward making this soup, which generally feeds a family of four for a day or two, is going out and buying some lentils. I went to Stop & Shop to look for a bag of lentils, but they only had yellow split peas — I guess everyone had the idea to make lentil soup this week!
Morning Glory Farm had some special lentils that were nice and colorful (called a lentil medley) that I chose, but normal yellow or brown lentils will work just the same. Make sure to rinse your lentils before mixing them in with water and chicken stock and bringing to a boil in a large soup pot. Drop the heat down to a simmer, and cook those babies for one hour. Regularly check on your lentils so they don’t dry out — you’ll want to have enough water in the pot when you add your vegetables, which is the next step.
Add chopped celery and carrots to the mix, and continue to simmer for one hour. While you wait, prepare a nonstick pan with some extra-virgin olive oil, and plop your Italian sausages in. Cook until they are brown on the outside and juicy on the inside. Poke some holes in the sausages with a fork if they are cooking too slowly. I used Boar’s Head no-nitrate sausages (the spicy kind), but any Italian-style sausage will do.
After the sausages are done, slice thinly and add to the pot. Those juices from the sausage will add a delicious savoriness and thickness to the soup. While adding the sausage, it’s a good time to add some seasonings. I normally use ground black pepper, coarse salt, and either fresh-chopped garlic or garlic powder. Throwing in some apple cider vinegar and either hot sauce or sriracha gives this gentle soup a little kick, if that’s what you’re into.
After cooking for about another hour, your feet should start floating off the floor in a classic cartoon style, as a visible whiff of soup steam draws you into the kitchen toward the aroma. Finally, serve yourself up a big bowl, add a dollop of sour cream, and sprinkle some chopped scallions on top. Now you’ve got yourself a meal that’s great reheated, and checks both the tasty and healthy boxes. Serve with a side of toasted artisan bread and salted butter for an unbeatable combination.
Here are the ingredients:
6 cups lentils
4 cups chicken stock
8 cups water
4 cups baby spinach
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
4 Italian-style chicken sausages
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder, or 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh garlic
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. sriracha or hot sauce
1 tub sour cream
1 bunch scallions
artisan bread loaf