This recipe is for one of our family's favorite soups. Lentil soup is something that is healthy, quick and fairly kid-friendly. Also, given that we are using lentils as the main protein source, it is quite cheap to make and can easily be tweaked to be vegetarian (just substitute water or vegetable broth for the chicken broth).
Also, feel free to experiment with the leafy greens. We usually use either kale or spinach, but I would imagine that just about any kind of leafy green (Swiss chard, turnip greens, cabbage, etc.) would work as well.
3/4 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots
2 large potatoes (or 4 Yukon gold - they will hold their shape better)
5 oz kale, stems removed and cut into 1-inch strips
15 oz crushed tomatoes
32 oz chicken broth (substitute vegetable broth or water if you are vegetarian)
15 oz chick peas, drained and rinsed
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
First step: Heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and stir. Cook for a few minutes and then stir in the garlic. Be sure to stir constantly and move on to the next step quickly, as garlic can burn in the blink of an eye (not that I would be guilty of that, of course).
Next, stir in the crushed tomatoes. Cover this quickly, as it will splatter.
While the tomatoes are cooking (for about 5-10 minutes), it's time to cut up the carrots and potatoes. Cut the potatoes into large chunks and the carrots into rounds. I tend to leave the skins on because I like the added texture and taste. Also, supposedly a lot of the fiber and nutrient content of potatoes are either in or very close to the skin. So if you don't mind trying it this way, give them a hearty scrub and chop away! (This also serves to make things go a lot faster...am I the only one who doesn't like peeling spuds?)
By the time you've got the potatoes and carrots prepped, it should be time to carefully add them to the tomato/onion mixture. Be careful when you take the lid off the pot - those tomatoes can be mean! Give them a good stir and pour in the lentils.
After adding the lentils, it's time to pour in the chicken broth (or vegetable broth or water). As one carton of broth is usually only 32 ounces, or 4 cups, I usually add another 2 cups water. If you would prefer to use all broth, that works too. And if you have homemade broth or stock on hand, that would be fantastic here. For an added protein boost, you can also stir in the chick peas at this point.
Stir everything well, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and let it cook until the potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes.
Next, gently stir in the kale or other greens. Let that simmer another 5-10 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender.
Before serving, be sure to taste the soup and add salt and pepper if you need it. Personally, I find that between the broth and the tomatoes, I don't need any more salt.
One trick I learned in Turkey to boost flavor without adding extra sodium is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. This helps to clarify the flavors and often eliminates the need to add any extra salt to a dish. Another good trick is to crumble some good feta on top.
Leftovers are great the next day, and will keep well for the better part of a week - perfect for making on the weekend and eating for lunch throughout the week. Serve hot with good bread and enjoy!