I think lentils are the earthiest and richest-tasting legume and this is, without a doubt, my favorite way to enjoy them. When I don’t soak the lentils, I begin by blanching the lentils for a couple of minutes before making the soup. This ensures tender lentils that are more evenly cooked.
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds
3 stalks celery, peeled and sliced into ½-inch “rounds”
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon aged Balsamic vinegar
Blanch the lentils: Bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the lentils and cook, stirring form time to time, for 2-3 minutes. Strain the water and reserve the lentils. In the same pot, add back the lentils and 4 cups of fresh water. Bring to a gentle simmer. Add the bay leaves.
Make the soup: In a large skillet, heat the oil. When it begins to smoke lightly, add the onions, cumin seeds and salt. Stir to blend. Cook over medium to high heat, stirring constantly, until the onions begin to brown around the edges, 2-3 minutes.
Cook the soup: Add the carrots, celery, brown sugar and black pepper and continue to cook until the vegetables become tender but not mushy, 5-8 minutes. Shut off the heat. Note: if the lentils are still firm and all the water evaporated, add an additional cup or 2 of water to allow them to be submerged in liquid as they cook. When the lentils are tender (but not mushy), remove the bay leaves and stir in the vegetables. Simmer together over low heat, allowing the flavors to meld together. If there is insufficient liquid, add a little.
Finish: Using a blender to puree half of the soup, leaving the other half chunky for texture. Stir in the cream. Taste for seasoning, ladle into bowls. Top with a drizzle of the Balsamic.
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