Lentil & Brown Rice Soup

Lentil & Brown Rice Soup

Now, I love epicurious as much as the next person. But in all honesty, I generally use it as a resource for ideas, as opposed to actual recipes. When I have a particular ingredient or two in mind, I’ll troll through their enormous database and read a bunch of recipes, pulling elements or techniques from several until I have a creation that’s mine, and that I want to eat. It’s not often that I’ll print out something from there and just prepare it as written. But last week an unusual coincidence prompted me to do just that. First, the Accidental Hedonist did a fascinating piece on lentils–no recipes, just info. Then that very evening, while I was rooting through the cupboard trying to decide what to make for dinner, I came across a bag of red lentils and a bag of split peas. The urge to make soup washed over me. Soup would be quick, it would be healthy, and it would make more than one meal. (Plus, as you’ll learn in the cold months to come, I really really love making soup.) While I was curious about the whole world of lentils, I figured I’d leave it up to S. Holding one bag in each hand, I wandered into his office and asked which he’d prefer. His decision was immediate: lentils, baby!

I don’t believe I’d ever made lentil soup before–to be honest, I’m not sure what I had in mind when I bought that bag several months ago. So I turned to epicurious for ideas. The array was impressive–who’d have thought there were thirty different ways to make lentil soup? Some were quite basic, merely called “Lentil Soup,” while others got all fancy shmancy: Lentil Soup with Mustard Oil and Tomato-Chive Topping! But the very last entry, Lentil & Brown Rice Soup, caught my attention, I suppose because in the back of my head was the knowledge that legumes and whole grains like brown rice make a “perfect” protein, whatever that means. It felt super-healthy to me. It received three-and-a-half forks in their user-based rating system. And when I clicked through, it had a lovely introductory paragraph about how popular it is among the Gourmet staff, inspiring “a devotion akin to love.” When I read it over, I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d want to tinker with. Basically, you cut up some stuff and throw it in a pot with lentils and brown rice. Less than an hour later, you’ve got soup. What could be better? And the absolute best part: this soup tastes INCREDIBLE. S and I were licking our bowls. Seriously, this recipe is a major winner. It is the classic example of “add a green salad and a loaf of crusty bread, and you’ve got a meal.”

One thing to note: the recipe says it will thicken as it stands and they aren’t kidding. The next day, the leftovers were virtually solid. I added water to turn it back into soup, and a little more salt, and it was just as wonderful.

Here it is, exactly as it appears on epicurious:

5 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 cup brown rice
a 32- to 35-ounce can tomatoes, drained, reserving the juice, and chopped
3 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried orégano
1/4 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or to taste
Those in the know also add about a pound of smoked sausage; even the best can be made better.
[FYI, I didn’t–and I still freakin’ loved it]

In a heavy kettle combine the broth, 3 cups water, the lentils, the rice, the tomatoes with the reserved juice, the carrots, the onion, the celery, the garlic, the basil, the orégano, the thyme, and the bay leaf, bring the liquid to a boil, and simmer the mixture, covered, stirring occasionally, for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the lentils and rice are tender. Stir in the parsley, the vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste and discard the bay leaf. The soup will be thick and will thicken as it stands. Thin the soup, if desired, with additional hot chicken broth or water.

Makes about 14 cups, serving 6 to 8.