How often do you catch yourself standing in front of your open fridge or pantry, hoping that if you stare at it just long enough, the perfect dinner solution will magically present itself? I do it more often that I would like to admit (this coming from a hyper meal planner), usually in response to my kid’s inevitable line of questioning around that night’s dinner menu.
Truth be told, I used to go into panic mode pretty quickly. Then a good friend taught me the trick of focusing on one ingredient – and building from there. Whether you are starting with a leafy green, a fresh chicken breast or a container of leftover pasta, you have your foundation. The rest is just “accessorizing” with what you have on hand.
This deliciously hearty lentil soup recipe is a direct result of lacking a clear plan. I had red lentils (lots of them), an overflowing bowl of lemons and a tried-and-true Heidi Swanson recipe to riff on. The soup came together quickly, tasted fabulous and didn’t require an extra trip to the store. All good.
2 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed well
1 tablespoon turmeric
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
1 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of two lemons
- Add the lentils to a large pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Stir in the turmeric, 1 tablespoon butter and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil before lowering the heat to a simmer. Cover and continue cooking until the lentils are soft, about 20 minutes.
- While the lentils are cooking, melt the remaining butter in a large skillet. Add the onions, cumin and mustard seeds. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, about 10-12 minutes. Still in the cilantro and remove from the heat.
- Once the lentils are done cooking, stir the onion mixture into the soup. Add the lemon juice, one lemon at a time, tasting along the way. Add a bit more salt to taste.
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Red Lentil Soup with Lemon Recipe.