OMG! When my husband and I went to the gym yesterday morning, the outside temperature was -7 degrees! That is so unseasonably cold for Columbus. Since I was going to have the evening to myself, I knew that I would be spending it by the fireplace with some comfort food and my iPad, catching up on emails and reading. I decided to make one of my favorite soups which is my Mom’s Lebanese Lentil Soup. It was the perfect meal for my evening alone. The ingredients are always in my pantry so it’s the ideal snowed-in dinner without having to venture out to the grocery store.
The added perk about this recipe is that it’s really two recipes in one. You can make it as a soup or you can reduce the liquid by simmering it longer and end up with lentils and rice which my husband prefers. On a cold night like last night, I wanted it as a hot soup! This was one of my favorite dishes growing up.
French Green Lentils vs. Brown Lentils
Before I get into the recipe, let’s talk about lentils. My mom always cooked with brown lentils and as I started cooking, I did the same. I really didn’t know anything about French lentils until Ina Garten started using them in her recipes. Have you cooked with French lentils?
The French green lentils are slightly smaller than the brown and they hold their shape better. Brown lentils, if overcooked, can get a little mushy. I prefer the al dente’ finish of the French lentils. They are also known to have a more peppery flavor. The French lentils take a little longer to cook than the brown (approximately 15 minutes). Don’t let that bother you as it’s the same easy prep for either lentil.
Mom’s Lebanese Lentil Soup Recipe (aka Emjaddara)
This delicious Lebanese lentil soup isn’t only easy to prepare but also healthy! Besides switching to French Lentils, the only other change I make from my mom’s original recipe is that I use less salt. You can use how much you like according to your taste.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup lentils (either brown or French)
1/4 cup rice
7 cups water
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, depending on taste
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Step One: Start Sautéing the Onions
Chop the onion and sauté in olive oil. My mom taught me that you can simmer on low for 20 minutes for perfectly sautéed onions. That works for most recipes; however, for this recipe, you want the onions on the verge of being burnt! It adds such great flavor to this soup. Simmer your onions on low and set your timer for 20 minutes and go on to the other prep work.
Step 2 Prep the Rest of the Ingredients
While your onions are simmering, you can finish the prep work.
As with all lentils, you need to sort through them to make sure there are no stones. I always find it best to sort them on a white dish as they stand out better. Once you have sorted through the lentils, rinse them.
Next, mash the garlic with a mortar and pestle and a little salt.
Measure out your spices in a small dish. While the onions finish, you can have all the ingredients put away.
Step 3: Final Step of the Onions
After the initial 20 minutes of sautéing, continue to brown the onions until they start to turn brown. You can turn up the heat and stir often. Don’t take any shortcuts as this is what adds great flavor to the soup. Keep an eye on the pan as it won’t take long for this last step.
Step 4: Add Remaining Ingredients
Before adding the water, I like to add the spices, garlic and lentils to the onion mixture and stir for one minute.
Add the water and cover, simmering on low for 45-60 minutes, depending on which lentils you used and also how much liquid you prefer. You can continue to cook until most liquid is absorbed if you prefer the lentils to be “lentils and rice” instead of “lentil soup”.
This meal is ideal with some warm crusty bread; however, at -7 degrees I wasn’t going to the store for fresh bread. I enjoyed my soup with Mary’s Gone Crackers multi grain crackers.
I love my food spicy and always add additional crushed red pepper to my own dish.
Note: This lentil soup freezes well.
What are you making during this arctic blast across the country? Stay warm and well.