The humble lentil soup is a wonderful thing to have in the back of the freezer on a chilly night. A few details elevate this simplest of meals: lots of dried herbs and warm spices, lots of tomato paste to keep the color from getting too brown, lots of greens (in this case, wild greens in the form of lamb's quarters or quelites), lots of lemon juice off the heat, and a thick, stewy consistency. Also, for the best texture and flavor, I always use French lentils (lentilles du Puy). —Maja Lukic - Veggies & Gin
large carrots, scrubbed but not peeled, chopped
large celery stalks, chopped
turnip, peeled and chopped
large parsnips, peeled and chopped
clove of garlic, minced
dried bay leaf
crushed red chili flakes
dry white wine (optional)
French green lentils (lentilles du puy)
water (or stock)
quelites (clusters of leaves only, no stems)
Before you start cooking, clean the quelites. Pick the soft leaves off the thick stems (discard the stems) and wash them well. The leaves can be extremely sandy.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, turnip, and parsnips to the pot and cook, stirring often, for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the onions are translucent. Add the bay leaf, oregano, cumin, chili flakes and garlic to the pot and cook for another 30 seconds but do not let the spices or garlic burn.
If using, add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for a few more minutes until the wine has slightly reduced.
Rinse the lentils well and add them to the pot along with the tomato paste and water (or stock). Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the soup to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium low and allow the soup to simmer uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes. Taste the lentils for doneness and be sure not to overcook them. If the soups dries out too much as it cooks, add another 1/2 cup or so of water, as necessary, but a thick consistency is best.
Near the end of the cooking time, add the quelites to the pot. They only require a few minutes of cooking time and will reduce considerably as they wilt down.
Take the soup off the heat and stir in the juice of half a lemon. Taste for seasoning and add in sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste. Allow the soup to cool slightly and serve with additional lemon juice.
It will keep in the fridge for a few days and will only get better with time as the flavors develop. For long-term storage, freeze individual portions for up to 1 month.