Back in August of 2008, I opened a small vegetarian restaurant right next door to my tea store. I spent a lot of time talking to my customers about what foods they should eat to feel healthier and prevent disease, so my goal was to create a place to eat where everything on the menu tasted amazing and was loaded with health benefits. It was a place where you could order anything on the menu and know that you’re not just ordering a meal; you were investing in your health.
One of those recipes that we served was this unique lentil soup, made with red lentils, ginger, carrots and tomatoes, with herbs and spices that reduce inflammation and support the health of your eyes, liver, and skin.
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The health benefits of lentils are often overlooked, but the truth is that these itty-bitty beans pack a whole lot of nutrients in a tiny package. Lentils are low in calories, but high in protein, iron, and folate. Lentils are also high in disease-preventing antioxidants and are believed to promote blood sugar balance and reduce inflammation.
Tip: They say that you don’t need to soak lentils, but if eating lentils upsets your stomach, ignore the experts and soak them overnight anyway. Discard the soak water, give the lentils a good rinse, then cook as directed in water or vegetable stock.
You will need:
- 2 quarts vegetable stock
- 3 cups dry red lentils
- 3” piece of fresh ginger, peeled, slivered
- 1 medium onion, chopped in ¼” pieces
- 10 medium cloves garlic, minced (if that's too garlicky for you, reduce to 6 cloves)
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp Himalayan salt (or other good salt)
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large or 3 small heirloom tomatoes, blanched, peeled, diced (you can also use Roma tomatoes)
- 1 small jalapeno, seeded, minced (optional)
- 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped semi-fine
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
There are three steps involved in the preparation of this soup. It's important to follow the three steps so that all of the flavors shine. The whole process takes about 45 minutes.
Cook the lentils in the vegetable stock for 30 minutes, or until soft to your liking (I like my red lentils cooked to a mush, but other people like them firmer).
In a large skillet, sauté the ginger, onion, garlic, carrot, in 1 tablespoon olive oil, along with the salt, bay leaf, turmeric, and cinnamon. Sauté for 15 minutes, or until the onions are transparent, and the carrot is soft. (You know how all the cookbooks say to cook the onions for three minutes until transparent? Well they lie. Onions never cook to transparent in three minutes. Or even five.) When finished, add this to the cooked lentils.
Using the same skillet you used for the ginger, carrot, and onion, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the tomatoes, lime juice, jalapeno, and coriander. Fry in the oil until it becomes a thick paste. Stir this into the soup. Taste and correct the seasonings to taste.