In college in California, I went through a considerable phase where a simple, economical, relatively healthy lunch obsession for me was Trader Joe’s’ canned lentil vegetable soup. I only say “relatively healthy” because canned soups, including that one, are on the high-ish side in sodium content. I grew up eating my mom’s lentil soup, which she made with the bone of a leftover Easter ham, and although that was delicious in its own right, I actually kind of prefer a vegetarian lentil soup to one with a lot of hammy flavor. (Please don’t tell her this. Watching her painstakingly spend an entire afternoon devoted to chopping tiny squares of ham for the ordeal of making her lentil soup, I couldn’t bear to tell her that I like a canned soup better. It’s just too cruel.) I tried my hand at many different lentil soup recipes to try to replicate the Trader Joe’s soup in order to reduce the sodium level, but none satisfied in the same way. Until, eureka, I arrived at this recipe. This is a hearty, rich, and totally vegetarian soup that will satisfy even the lentil-haters in your life. Make it in a big batch and do as I do: freeze individual portions for a quick, nutritious lunch in just the time it takes to nuke a bowl’s worth!
Lentil Vegetable Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups uncooked lentils (green lentils work excellently)
4 cups low-sodium, organic vegetable broth
4-6 cups water
2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 package (7 ounces) organic baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
8-10 small red potatoes, halved
3-4 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup haricot vert (fresh green beans), chopped
1 Tbsp turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and then the garlic, stirring until the onion is translucent. Add the minced rosemary, diced carrots, turmeric, and the potatoes. Next, add the uncooked lentils, the broth, and four cups of the water, bringing the entire mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for about twenty minutes, or until the lentils are tender (but not, God forbid, mushy. Only the British like mushy legumes.) Add the spinach, tomatoes, and haricot vert and allow the soup to return to a simmer for an additional ten minutes, adding the remaining water as necessary if the soup becomes too thick and needs more liquid. Add the salt and pepper to taste and serve with a nice hearty slice of buttered bread.
Word to the Wise
*This soup freezes extremely well and contains far less sodium than many canned soups with similar titles. For a convenient meal in a pinch, make up a big batch of this soup and freeze it in individually sized containers so that you can reheat a single portion for a healthy, vegetable-packed, hearty serving of soup, as in the photo above; top right.