Legumes are not by any stretch of the imagination my favorite food category, but my mom must have made lentil soup occasionally when I was little, because the taste is familiar and reassuring. I forgot its existence for a long time, until I had lentil soup at a potluck last winter and some vague sense memories were reawakened. Shortly afterward, I found this recipe somewhere (online, I think) and added it to my repertoire. I couldn’t eat lentil soup every day, or even every month—I think this is only the second or third time I’ve used this recipe—but it’s good, nourishing comfort food. This is, as promised, an easy version, but it’s still flavorful, especially when eaten as leftovers (as with many soups, the flavors seem to intensify over a couple of days). Very little skill is required, and you barely have to pay attention to it while it’s cooking. Best of all, it makes the house smell cozy and lentilicious, so for optimal effects, make it on a cold, cloudy, wet day when you’re feeling a little sad and sleepy. (I, however, made it on a brilliantly sunny and warm day after a bracing hike along the ocean, and it tasted just as pleasing to me, so really there’s no need to wait until the bad weather and dark mood strike you.)
3 cups dry lentils
7 cups water
2 teaspoon salt
6-8 medium cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1. Put the lentils, the water, and the salt in a large pot on the stove, bring it to a boil, and then lower the heat to the lowest possible simmer and cook, partially covered, for 20-30 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots to the pot along with a generous amount of black pepper. Cover the pot and simmer, covered, 20-30 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot and let them cook at least 5 minutes more, until everything seems tender and warmed through.
Time: 1 hour