I really enjoy a big ol' bowl of lentils. Amazing, I never had them growing up. As a new vegan, I decided to expand my culinary palette by trying lots of new foods, and lentils was one of them. One of my favorite food combinations is lentils and greens, and believe it or not, I actually had some greens on hand when I made some this time around! This soup was definitely one of those moments where I was pretty much tossing everything into a pot (at least when it came to the veggies). However, the broth is enhanced by the addition of red wine.
I'm not a drinker. I just want to say that up front. A couple times a year I might drink half a good beer or half a glass of wine, but it general I just don't like filling my tummy up with alcoholic liquids. I will, however, cook with them occasionally. Alcohol is destroyed by heat, so keep in mind that anytime you add beer or wine to a recipe the alcohol will literally evaporate out of the dish, leaving behind a nice tasty flavor. Red wine is very good in "dark" broths (broths that are traditionally beefy) and white wine is good in "light" broths (broths that are traditionally chicken). In going with the idea of a hearty stew, I decided to use a semi-sweet red wine and a rich vegetable broth to give this dish flavor. The wine really perks up your taste buds.
Just be sure to use a vegan wine, preferably local, to keep this dish cruelty free. Also, if the wine doesn't taste good when you drink it by itself, then it won't taste good when it's cooked either!!! Don't cook with it if you won't drink it!! Also, DON'T use anything labeled "... Cooking Wine" (such as red cooking wine, or red sherry wine). These wines are super, super salty, and they will most likely ruin the flavor of the dish. If you choose not to cook with wine, simply add more vegetable broth.
Also, in this dish I used French lentils. They take about an hour to cook. If you have green or brown ones at home, you can use those just as easily and they cook in about 45 minutes. Just adjust the recipe as necessary so the lentils and vegetables get done at the same time. Since tomato paste is acidic, I usually wait and add it (and the salt) and the end with everything else is already cooked. Lentils will toughen if too much acid is in the pot.
Lentil Soup with Red Wine:
3/4 c. French lentils
1 c. potatoes, diced
1/2 c. yellow onion, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
1/2 c. carrots, chopped
1/2 bunch kale, tough stems and veins removed, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 Tb. tomato paste
1/2 Tb. agave nectar
3 c. vegetable broth
1 c. good red wine (I used a semi-sweet wine)
Sea salt to taste
1. In a soup pot, rinse and sort lentils. Add the vegetable broth, wine, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer about 20 minutes.
2. Add the potatoes, onion, celery, carrots, kale, garlic, bay leaf, parsley, thyme, and white pepper. Let cook for 40 more minutes or until lentils are done.
3. Once the lentils are done, add the tomato paste, agave nectar, and salt to taste. Let simmer a few more minutes. Acidity and salt will cause the lentils to toughen, so I usually add them at the end. Once all the vegetables and lentils are done, remove from the heat and enjoy! Tastes great paired with some whole wheat peasant bread!
Man, I wish I had some more of this right now! Those leftovers went pretty fast...