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Got a pulse? Try some lentil soup.

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I think lentils, an ancient food, are the crop to save the future as we adapt to new weather patterns hastened by “global weirding.”

The more I read about lentils, the more I wonder why I don’t eat them more often. As a crop, they can tolerate extreme temperatures and survive with minimal water and no irrigation. Lentils are high in protein, fiber, iron and folate and form the backbone of vegetarian diets around the world. They cook fast and absorb all kinds of flavors. They’re cheap and store well.

Also, lentils, like beans, are an important rotation crop, as lentils fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil for nitrogen-loving cash crops like wheat and corn. As a rotation crop, legumes like lentils also help reduce overall pest, weed, and insect problems – and the need for toxic pesticides.

Lentils, in the legume or pulse family (along with beans, soybeans, peanuts, and peas), grow on a bushy plant in pod. There are only about two lentil “seeds” in each pod, which can be damaged easily by mechanized harvesting, making the harvest somewhat labor-intensive. Around the world, it seems lentil plants are most often pulled up by hand, left in the field to dry and then taken to a threshing facility where the seeds are winnowed from the dried-out plant. (An extra bonus, the “waste” plant material is prized as feed for livestock.)

There are lots of varieties of lentils to try, from the black beluga lentil to the French green puy lentil.

For this lentil soup recipe, I used the common red variety, which breaks down into a velvety texture. To create this dish, I tweaked a recipe from Cooking Light to use up leftover Easter ham I had in the freezer…and, of course, added some bacon for extra goodness. The addition of lemon juice and parsley at the end brighten up all the flavors. I’m actually typically not a huge lentil soup fan, but have already made this recipe twice in a month.

Lentil Soup
- serves 6 -

1 ½ strips bacon
1 c chopped ham
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 c chopped celery (about 2 large stalks)
1 c chopped carrot (about 2 large)
½ t dried thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 c dried red lentils
5 c chicken broth
1 c water
1 (14.5 oz) can chopped tomatoes plus some juice
2T fresh lemon juice
2T fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
salt & pepper

Render the bacon in a dutch oven over medium high heat until browned. Add ham and onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Add a little olive oil if needed. Saute veggies 5-10 minutes. Add lentils and stir for 2 minutes. Add broth and water, thyme, bay leaf, tomatoes a few tablespoons of the tomato juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover; simmer 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are soft and starting to break down. Let cool 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Put about 3-4 cups of the soup mixture in blender, with center piece of blender lid removed. Place a paper towel and a folded kitchen towel loosely over the opening to try and keep from splattering – it’s hot, so be really careful, it wants to explode. I may not have cooled it down enough, so if you want to be extra careful, let the soup cool more before this step.

Return blended soup to pot and stir in lemon juice, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

    3 Comments

    1. dan says:

      Lentils are great. And the addition of ham and bacon to a Cooking Light recipe sounds like an excellent idea.

      I actually have an entirely different lentil recipe queued up for later this week.

    2. Jenn says:

      It’s just a LITTLE ham and bacon, geez. Funny we are on the same wavelength this week… I’ll have to try your recipe too. Likin’ the lentils!

    3. Jenn says:

      I just re-read my recipe and I didn’t note that I chopped up the bacon before rendering it.

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