The beauty of a vegetable soup is manifold. It’s mouthwatering, colorful, done in a snap, affordable, versatile, full of vitamins and fiber, accessible, easily vegan/gluten-free, and pantry-friendly. Wow! The beauty of a vegetable soup with legumes, or in this case both lentils and chickpeas, is even greater as there’s the addition of plant-based protein (and lots more fiber) which makes the soup increasingly healthful — to say nothing of filling. Now all those things are true, real, and make me feel happy about putting a pot of this goodness on the table anytime. But I mostly want to make vegetable soup because I like to eat it (especially right after Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day!) and before that, I like to smell it cooking in my house. Is there anything better?
My doctors’ take:
If you’re like me and have a doc who is intensively into preventive medicine, one phrase heard at every yearly physical sounds something like, “Less white rice, less white bread, less white pasta.” My guy, an aspiring artist, even draws pictures of downward arrows next to those words on the paper I take home from the visit. (What is that paper called anyway? After-Visit Summary? Oh well.) He doesn’t know it, but those things aren’t on daily menus at my house anyway. The young cardiologist (BA in nutrition) I’ve had to see a time or two also includes, “No food from four legs or anything that comes from four legs.” Now that’s taking things a little too far because I have a soft spot for meat, am addicted to (nonfat, lactose-free, high protein) milk in my coffee, and cheese is my super close friend. But I pay attention and work on it. Then there’s the gastro guy who has it all typed out ahead of time for my colonoscopy. I mean, he’s ready for me. No red meat. No processed meat. No processed food. No diet coke. Oatmeal and blueberries every day. High fiber everything. (Everything?) Tea with dinner and remember to walk after dinner. Yah, I know; we all hear this stuff and I’m pretty much smh over it, but the proof’s in the pudding, isn’t it? And so if we can’t be perfect in following our doctors’ advice, we can mostly lean in that direction. And vegetable soup leans way in. Vegetable soup with lentils and chickpeas sways even further toward that healthy diet.
Think about making some variety of soup with a big bunch of vegetables every week if you can. Even if there's a little meat involved. Consider Split Pea, Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato, Asparagus, Carrot, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Pumpkin, Black Bean, (Cold) Cucumber, Onion, Cream of Pea, Vegetable-Barley, Potato, Spring Vegetable, or other Lentil soups.... Make soup one day, have it for dinner, and then for a couple of lunches, too. Et voila! You just had 3 or 4 healthy meals and you probably saved some bucks.
So you can smile big when you eat this stuff. There’s no “I really shouldn’t have it” sorta feeling going on. You’re good. YES! And you’re doing lovely things for your beautiful body. And when you sneak a few french fries off your friend’s plate next weekend, finish off some chips from the Super Bowl, have a pork chop (don’t tell my heart guy), or go out for ice cream, you can be assured you’re probably ok because you ate a boatload of healthy soup (and other things for sure!) in the days ahead, right? Read up here on the 80/20 diet. Taking care of yourself feels heaven-ish. I already told you it tastes good, so try this:
Mushroom and Leek Lentil-Chickpea Soup
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) olive oil, divided
- 4 ounces (1¼ cups) sliced button, crimini, or shitake mushrooms
- Dried oregano
- Fresh ground pepper
- 2 EACH: chopped cloves garlic, stalks celery, medium trimmed carrots, medium leeks (white and light green parts)
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- Handful chopped parsley, plus extra for minced garnish
- ¾ teaspoon EACH: kosher salt, ground cumin, sweet curry powder
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- ½ cup white wine — can sub water
- 15- ounce can chopped tomatoes
- 6 cups vegetable broth — can sub chicken broth
- 4 cups water or more as needed
- A few shakes of hot sauce or to taste, plus more to pass at the table
- 1 ½ cups brown lentils
- 15- ounce can chickpeas, drained
- 1 cup chopped cabbage — can sub fresh spinach, but add it only for last 2-3 minutes of cooking
- Croutons (SEE NOTES) and minced parsley for garnish
- HEAT ONE TABLESPOON OLIVE OIL over medium-high flame in a large soup pot for one minute. Add mushrooms and a pinch each oregano and pepper. Cook 2 minutes or until softened, stirring a time or two. Remove to a bowl.
- HEAT REMAINING THREE TABLESPOONS OLIVE OIL in the pot and add the chopped garlic, celery, carrots, leeks, onion, parsley, salt, cumin, curry powder, black pepper, cinnamon, along with another ½ teaspoon dried oregano. Cook, stirring, until softened, 5-8 minutes.
- POUR IN WHITE WINE and cook down 2 minutes or until nearly evaporated.
- POUR IN TOMATOES, BROTH, WATER, AND HOT SAUCE. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover.
- ADD LENTILS, CHICKPEAS, AND CABBAGE. Reduce to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cook 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until lentils and vegetables are tender. Add additional water or broth as needed to keep the soup brothy throughout the cooking time. Stir in reserved mushrooms. Taste and adjust seasonings a last time, especially if you’ve added liquids.
- SERVE HOT garnished with croutons and minced parsley. Pass hot sauce at the table.Store for 5 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.
Why is soup better the next day? I dunno, but this one is! I think it's not just the old ditty "marrying of flavors," though of course that's part of it. The first day, each ingredient is more individually flavored than at later meals when the soup has rested long enough to discover its own whole vibe. Technically I'm guessing the solids absorb the spices and flavors from the aromatics and other ingredients in the broth overnight as soup is nearly always thicker in the morning. On the other hand — if there is another hand — soup is occasionally dumbed down after chilling or freezing and needs a bit more salt, pepper, etc. on heating.
TIPS for reading:
- Cooking with Hot Sauce/CHILIPEPPERMADNESS
- Science Proves Your Leftovers DO Taste Better…/TASTEAU
- Myth of Lentils as an Incomplete Protein/LIVESTRONG
- Health Benefits of Mushrooms/WEBMD
- Crouton Recipe (oven)/ALLRECIPES
- Our Top 20+ Best Vegetarian Soup Recipes/EATINGWELL
- 9 Great Lentil Soups/101COOKBOOKS
TIPS to change it up:
*Add meat if you like. Raw sausage or ground chicken or turkey, cooked halfway before adding in the onion mixture, makes a yummy lentil soup, as does chopped smoked ham. I’m not a huge fan of beef in lentil soup, but some folks are. *Use the vegetables you have on hand. (Fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Turnip instead of carrot. Fennel rather than celery. Leave out garlic–though I wouldn’t– and so on.) *Skip leeks and use all onions. *Any canned beans can take the place of chickpeas *Toss in a diced potato or sweet potato instead of chickpeas (add it with the lentils) *Don’t use mushrooms if you don’t like them or have none. *Change the flavor profile by subbing thyme and bay or oregano and basil for the curry, cumin, and cinnamon. *Increase the heat with added crushed red pepper, hot sauce, or dial up to a hotter curry powder. *Swap in chopped walnuts or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano/Cheddar cheese for the croutons — or add all of them! *Don’t use boxed croutons. If you don’t want to make them yourself, add something else as a garnish. *Stir in a cup of coconut milk at the end of the cooking time and heat through. *Serve with rice or whole grain bread to ensure a complete protein (though other things you eat through the day may accomplish this anyway).
TIPS to reduce waste or save $$:
*Buy lentils in bulk. Use only what you need each time. Store for 2-3 years in a cool, dark place. I buy them online in 5 lb bags from Palouse, WA. *Make your own broth. While recipes include whole onions, carrots, etc., you can keep trimmings, peels, etc in the freezer and use those. The broth can also be frozen in quarts until you need it. *Freeze leftover soup or share with friends. If possible, freeze the soup asap instead of waiting several days. Soup can also be canned. *One cup of soup left? Bring it to a simmer and crack in an egg. Cover until the egg is poached to your liking. (above, left) Or heat it and pour it over a piece of buttered toast or cooked elbow macaroni in a bowl.
If you liked this, you might also like my Pumpkin-Lentil Soup. (above, right). The blog is nearly overloaded with lentil soups. Just type, Lentil Soup into the search box to see. Hard decisions….
LIFE GOES ON:
We remain in Illinois in our airbnb for a few more days and so spent both Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day here. I made my favorite sliders for Super Bowl along with a huge veggie tray but also did Smitten Kitchen’s oven buffalo wings — excellent, excellent and so easy. The recipe says to let the wings rest 8-24 hours with a covering of baking powder and salt. I gave it 15 minutes and called it done. They were ultra crispy.
Husband Dave loves a wedge salad, but I rarely remember to make one. I did it for Valentine’s Day:
Dessert was a fine specimen of a BON APPETIT lemon poundcake. Without cookbooks, I’m reduced to trying things off the net. This one’s a winner by chef Lauren Schaefer. I served it with fresh berries, but I think it would also be tasty with ice cream or sorbet. I tried to get some good pics as I might blog it sometime and so see what you think of this… Well, it’s an iPhone photo –as are nearly all the pix in this post — as my Canon doesn’t want to play nicely with the wonky wifi in this house. Insert bad words here.
For the last day or two, the guys have been trimming the huge trees near the power lines in this 100+-year old neighborhood ahead of a predicted rain, ice, and snow storm. They’ve put out our power a time or two, but have kept Rosie company all day long:
I’m late this week after the two “holidays” and might be later or mia next week as I’m traveling for two days early in the week. Whichever way, I’ll meet you back up on the mesa in Colorado soon. Thanks for keeping me company in my temp kitchen –you rock– and as always,
Stay well and cook on,
Listen to the Bengson’s HOPE COMES sometime.
Read up….I’m a little behind on Bruno, but am finally on THE COLDEST CASE by fave author Martin Walker.
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