I first had crushed lentil soup at my all time favorite Lebanese restaurant- The Grape Leaf. This soup was a turning point for me in my culinary repertoire. Prior to this soup, I pretty much thought that soup was Lipton’s chicken noodle soup that my mom would make from a packet when I was sick or some hearty but fairly unhealthy soup, like my college’s baked potato soup (tasty but high in calories). After tasting the Grape Leaf’s crushed lentil soup, I realized two things: 1: I love lentils! and 2: Soup can actually be pretty darn good.
This soup could be vegetarian- pretty much just substitute the broth/stock for vegetable broth! (I almost made it vegetarian, but I couldn’t get the vegetable broth jar open. Doh!) I actually found the original version of this soup in one of the editions of the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks— a tome of vegetarian recipes that the Moosewood Collective puts out every so often, filled with creative and tasty vegetarian foods.
I make this soup pretty much as often as I make cornbread (they’re YUMMY together)– so at least once a month, if not more.
Crushed Lentil Soup
Time: Approx. 1 hour
Garlic, 5-10 cloves (depending on how garlicky you like your soup)
3-5 Tbsp Olive Oil (I used Extra Virgin Olive Oil, aka EVOO)
An assortment of vegetables, about 6-8 cups total. I use the following:
2 medium sweet onions, diced
3-4 ribs of celery, diced
1 1/2 cup carrots, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 zucchini or yellow squash, diced
2 broccoli stalks, diced (You can use the florets as well)
1 Jalapeño (optional)
1-2 Tbsp cumin (more or less to taste)
1-2 Tbsp curry powder (more or less to taste)
1-2 Tbsp turmeric or a pinch of saffron
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp garam masala
Dash of: Paprika, fresh-ground pepper, sea salt, chili powder
1 1/2 to 2 cups lentils, rinsed and picked over
6 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock, or water, heated
Sea salt to taste
Lemon zest to taste (1 lemon)
1/4 cup fresh squeeze lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Garnish: Sea salt, baked kale chips, or bread (optional)
Special Tools: Immersion blender, heavy duty blender, or food processor (to blend the soup)
What To Do
Chop up your vegetables, except garlic, into roughly the same size pieces– you just want them to cook evenly. They’re going to get blended later, so they don’t have to look pretty! If you like, you can slice or chop them up with a food processor.
Dice the garlic. In a large stockpot, heat the EVOO and garlic on medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic has begun to turn golden (but not crispy).
Now, add your spices and stir again. Place a lid over the pot to get cookin’!
While the vegetables are cooking, rinse and drain your lentils. Be sure to pick out any small rocks or debris. I used a mix of brown and red, but you can use your favorite variety. I’ve been trying to find French green lentils, as I’ve heard they’re exceptionally tasty.
Your soup will look like this when its about done. Test the lentils and vegetables with a tasting spoon (Those plastic spoons you get from take out are perfect! Yes, I am one of those people- I reuse plastic utensils). If the lentils and veggies are tender, and you’re satisfied with the seasonings, remove the pot from the heat and over to a stable flat area, like your counter. Be sure to use potholders!
If you have an immersion blender, you can start blending up the soup right away. If you’re using a blender or food processor, you may want to allow the soup to cool down (for your safety) before blending.
Blend the soup for 2-3 minutes, until fairly smooth. Ultimately the texture is up to you, so be sure to taste the soup at various stages until you’re happy (coarse, medium, fine). I generally prefer a finely blended soup.
Zest and juice one lemon (if you don’t have a lemon on hand, you can omit the zest and just use the juice). Stir in the lemon juice (lemon juice tends to break down when heated, so to retain the flavor, add at the end of the cooking process). Taste the soup, and add more lemon juice if desired.
If you cooled the soup down, gently reheat the soup before serving.
Garnish, if desired, with bread and kale chips. Serve hot!
Enjoy, and as they say in Lebanon: “The eating is proportional to the love.” (Thanks to this blog for that phrase!)