My usual lentil soup has some spice to it, and is fantastic on those cold, blustery days when a little heat with your dish is what you need. The chiles and the tomato add zing and heat and this sharpness to the soup. It's intensely delicious.
This recipe, on the other hand, is pretty simple. It starts with the aromatic base of the mirepoix and then builds on the earthiness of the lentils and the flavorful herbs. Doesn't sound all that amazing, does it? But wait... The balsamic vinegar is the element that really adds the Wow!-factor to this fairly simple recipe.
French Lentil Soup
- 1/2 cup leek, white part only, minced finely
- 1/2 cup white onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup parsnip, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup celery root, peeled, cleaned and chopped -- See Notes
- 2 T butter (or olive oil)
- 3/4 cup green puy lentils rinsed and picked over for stones and grit (brown lentils work really well too)
- 1 T balsamic vinegar
- 3 cups warm chicken broth or vegetable broth
- bay leaf
- 5 or 6 whole sprigs of thyme
- 6 or 7 stalks of parsley
- 1/4 cup celery tops (the leafy portion)
- creme fraiche (or sour cream)
- thyme for garnish
- balsamic vinegar for drizzling (optional)
- Saute the leek, onion, parsnip and celery root in butter over medium-high heat until the veggies are soft and the onions have become translucent.
- Add the lentils and stir to coat, then add the bay leaf, warmed broth and balsamic vinegar, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the sprigs of thyme, parsley and celery tops, cover and let simmer for another half hour or until the lentils are soft.
- Remove the bay leaf, parsley, thyme and celery tops, taste to adjust seasoning. Now is when I add salt and pepper.
- With a stick blender, puree the soup until you get the consistency you like, or blend it in batches in a blender. I still like some whole lentils in my soup, but others like a smoother puree. You may have to add a bit more broth or water if it becomes too thick when you puree it.
- Serve topped with creme fraiche or sour cream, a bit of thyme and a teensy drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
- I started this soup with a variation of a white mirepoix. Usually when I make lentil soup, I use a traditional mirepoix of 2 parts onion to 1 part carrot and 1 part celery, but I didn't want the orange and green in this soup, so I subbed parnsips for the carrot and celery root for the celery. I was in a leek mood, so I replaced half of the onion with an equal amount of leek. I imagine that this recipe would work just fine with the regular onion - carrot - celery base.
- You can reduce or increase this recipe easily if you remember that the dry lentil to liquid ratio is 1 : 4. So, 1 cup lentils to 4 cups broth or all the way down to 1/4 cup lentils to 1 cup broth.