Who needs a delicious, fat-free, easy soup full of protein that can double as a dip with only a minor adjustment? You? Well, isn’t it lucky that you are reading this instead of some poor silly person who needs no such thing? Because this, you see, is a post about such a soup-slash-dip.
Celery. Onions. Garlic. I know I put ’em in everything, but they’re just so tasty. Hack some up and put them in a pot. You can also add parsley at this step.
Sort the lentils – they are not always perfectly sorted when you buy them, and there will sometimes be rocks, other legumes, or grains in with them. Throw out anything you don’t want to eat. Then, thoroughly rinse off your lentils in a sieve or small-holed colander. The more you rinse, the less lentil scum you’ll have to skim off the top of your soup as it cooks. Add the quantity of lentils to the pot. In this example, I’m using red lentils, but other varieties work too. Add also some Better than Bouillon, some salt, and enough water to more than cover the whole thing. Stir it up and turn the heat on high.
Lentils absorb a lot of water. Stir every few minutes, and keep an eye on the pot to make sure they don’t dry out and start to burn – you will probably need to splash in a little more water now and then.
During the cooking process, some moderately gross stuff will float to the top. This is lentil scum. It’s not dangerous, and it won’t even taste bad if you leave it there, but if it makes you nervous you can skim it off with a spoon and rinse it down the sink. Expect a few onion/garlic/celery/lentil casualties with the scum if you do.
When the lentils start to look nice and mushy, spoon out a few and eat them. If they are soft and squishy all through, then you can turn off the heat; if not, keep adding water as necessary, cooking, and tasting until they are. Once you have the desired texture, you can keep them at a boil long enough to cook off any excess water (you don’t need to worry about overcooking lentils); just make sure they stay wet and stirred-up enough not to burn. When this is done, turn the heat way down.
Next, it’s time to season them. I have two basic seasoning styles I use with lentils: curry and citrus-green spices. (Citrus meaning lemon or lime – I haven’t tried other fruits – and “green spices” meaning things like thyme, dill, chives, rosemary, sage, etc., not so much basil or oregano.) In this example, I’m using lemon and thyme as the main flavors (I’ll cover curry later): to do the same, squirt in some lemon juice to taste and do the same with thyme (except thyme you need to pinch or sprinkle, rather than squirt). Small quantities of the other green spices I mentioned aren’t amiss with this combination either – sometimes I add all of them. Finish off with salt and pepper, also to taste. If they’re starting to look less brightly colored than you’d prefer, you can add turmeric to give them a nice yellow-orange hue.
If you wind up with a thin soup and you were hoping to be able to use it as a dip, you can use cornstarch to good effect: mix up a spoonful or two of cornstarch in a separate cup or bowl with water (or your lemon juice, if you feel like being super-efficient) until it’s smooth, then pour it in and stir to incorporate. The lentils will stick more effectively to chips after that. If a small amount of cornstarch doesn’t thicken the soup enough to suit you, add more, or try turning up the heat for a bit to cook the starches.