Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Simple Lentil Soup with Leeks & Yellow Carrots


I have a new rule lately, and that is to eat either lentils or quinoa a few days a week. It's easy to make a big pot of either to bring for lunches to make sure I'm eating healthy as much as possible. We'll talk about the quinoa another time, for this week is a lentil week.

Lentils are one of the healthiest sources of protein, leaving you feeling full and satisfied. They are very low in calories, almost fat-free and loaded with B-vitamins and minerals. One of the best benefits of eating lentils is plenty of soluble fiber, which balances blood sugar, lowers cholesterol and is generally good for digestion. Soluble fiber carries a lot of bad things out of your body.

These little legumes are easy to prepare, too. All you have to do is make sure there are no stones or other foreign matter hanging out with them, give them a rinse in a wire strainer, and add them to boiling liquid for anywhere from 15-45 minutes. So far I've used red ones and green ones. The red tend to disappear into the dish and become one with the other ingredients. The green hold up really well with long cook-times.

After a weekend trip to the farmer's market, I was well-stocked in root vegetables and leeks. Both the fickle weahter, and the fresh leeks remind me of Spring in Paris, so I decided to keep the lentil soup as simple as the French would by using minimal ingredients. I wanted to showcase the flavor of the leeks and the earthy yellow carrots. The lentils come in because I also wanted a hearty one-pot meal.

Everything in this soup melded nicely together. I kept it mild, but you could really add any sort of herbs or spices you want. It does go well with toasted bread, but for lunch I'll eat it over brown rice for a complete protein boost.

Simple Lentil Soup with Leeks & Yellow Carrots
4 servings, approx. 1-1/2 hours total time

¾ C dried green French lentils
2 T olive oil
1 C leeks, white and light green parts cleaned and sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 C yellow carrots, diced
1 C Yukon gold potatoes, diced
3 C vegetable stock
1 tsp sea salt
black pepper
¼ C fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped

1. Check lentils for stones and rinse in a strainer. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, add lentils, and reduce heat to simmer 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat and add leeks. Cook slowly, stirring, about 6 minutes until quite soft. Add garlic and cook 2 more minutes.

3. Add carrots, potatoes, lentils and stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes until potatoes and carrots are tender.

4. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender, or a standing blender to puree about half of the soup. This gives the broth a nice thickness.

5. Serve garnished with cilantro or parsley.
Yellow Carrots
Leaving the root end of the leek intact makes it easier to rinse them

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