After all of the rich foods, libations, and sweets of the last few weeks, something simple, almost austere, seems in order for the week between Christmas and the New Year. Soup is my favorite meal and an excellent way to recover from holiday excesses of all types. If you spent a little too much remembering your loved ones with gifts, you can also comfort yourself with the thought that lentil soup is cheap!
A pound of organic lentils cost $2.49; a little onion, garlic, celery, and carrot made the base; I used up some leftover tomatoes and ham (waste not, want not!) for flavor. You could just as easily omit the ham for a vegetarian–and more virtuous–version.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, with leaves, diced
2 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed with the flat of a knife
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces green lentils
1 cup ham, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (optional)
1 cup canned tomatoes
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
Secret ingredient: Sriracha hot sauce, to taste (optional)
Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in a medium soup pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and pepper, and stir. Add the lentils, and saute for 2 minutes. Add the ham, tomatoes, and stock. Simmer for 45 minutes, until lentils are tender. Add Sriracha to taste.
Serves 4. Some fresh bread or a simple salad are all you need to accompany this soup.