Post-holiday food should never be about repentance. It should be about deliciousness and healthy renewal—clean eating at its best.
That's why, after New Year's Eve revelry followed by an indulgent New Year's Eve lunch (on the heels of Christmas feasts and other holiday parties), what I craved for dinner was a warming bowl of wholesome, chunky, vegan lentil-and-vegetable soup.
Happily, I'd created one a couple of weeks before—one that my family went crazy for. I decided to whip up something like it again.
It's very easy to put together. The only work is chopping a few aromatic vegetables (onion, carrot, garlic, maybe celery) and opening a can of tomatoes. (Make sure your tomatoes don't have sugar in them, or the soup won't be so detoxifying.) Saute the vegetables in a little olive oil, add turmeric, coriander and herbs, then the lentils, tomatoes and water. Then just let it simmer for 50 minutes or so, till the lentils are tender and all the flavors come together.
The first one I made involved green lentils; next time I used half black lentils and half red lentils—which are softer when cooked than the green or black ones. For version 2.0, I also boosted the turmeric—which is thought to have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and added ginger, for a slightly different (more Indian, maybe) flavor.
Both were delicious.
It's a soup that can be all things to all people—or at least many kinds of people. It's vegan. (Consider it for a meatless Monday!) It's gluten-free. The only processed ingredients are minimally processed (a can of tomatoes and the ground spices), so it's very clean. It's extremely forgiving and versatile. Want to add some chopped broccoli or cauliflower, diced turnips, or last night's leftover Brussels sprouts? Go ahead. It's infinitely riff-able.
It's so soul-satisfying that carnivores probably won't miss the meat. My son Wylie, home for college for winter break, had three bowls in one sitting. If you don't mention it's healthy, no one will be the wiser.
Best of all, you can whip it up in a flash. Putting it together takes about 10 minutes, 15 max. In less than an hour, it's done.
Cooking for just one or two? Make a batch, eat some tonight, then take it to work later this week in a Thermos for lunch.
This variation on my green-lentil and baby kale detox soup uses a combination of black and red lentils, adds ginger, boosts the turmeric (which is a powerful anti-oxidant) and coriander, swaps arugula for baby kale and omits the celery. It's still just as delicious—and makes it obvious that the basic recipe is one you can play with and riff on. Next time I'll probably add turnips!
WARMING LENTIL SUPER-DETOX SOUP II
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large or 3 medium carrots, sliced or roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 or 3 branches of thyme
3 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup black lentils, rinsed
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 14.5-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, including their liquid
2 1/2 to 3 cups baby arugula (about half a 5-ounce cello pack)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and saute till the onion is soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, bay leaves and thyme and cook another two minutes or so. Stir in the turmeric and coriander and let cook another two minutes or so.
2. Add the lentils and the tomatoes (including their liquid), along with 7 cups of water and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer about half an hour to 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender (if they're tender before half an hour is up, let it simmer the whole half hour. If it's getting too thick, you can add another cup of water).
3. Remove the thyme branches and bay leaves and stir in the arugula, along with the salt and cayenne pepper. Let it cook 10 or 15 minutes (it's ready when it's delicious). Adjust seasoning and serve.