February 21, 2010

A very humble soup

To tell the truth, I wasn't going to write a post about this soup.

I made it a few nights ago after work, when I had been longing for a simple, comforting bowl of veggie and lentil soup for dinner. The standard onion, garlic, carrot, and celery went into my faux Le Creuset, along with green lentils, and herbes de Provence and red pepper flakes to give it a little zing. Collards and parsley because I love my greens. Fresh lemon juice, just because when does it ever hurt? And this soup completely fit the bill. Quite nice, I thought at the time, but perhaps nothing to write home about.

Then I reheated it for lunch the next day. And, as often happens to me with soups, stews, and braises, I had a delayed-reaction-falling-in-love experience. Overnight in the fridge the flavors had mingled and melded, transforming this very humble soup into something very special. A lesson in patience.

A note: please don't leave out the lemon juice! A bit of acidity really brightens up soups, especially those containing legumes such as lentils. If you don't have a lemon on hand, add a couple of teaspoons of apple cider vinegar or umeboshi vinegar, to taste.

Another note: I think any bowl of soup can benefit greatly from a drizzle of excellent extra-virgin olive oil (I especially love the olive oils at Oliviers & Co., and often visit their Grand Central shop to taste the latest varieties). This time I used a grassy and peppery Italian xvoo, made with frantoio olives, called Azienda Agricola Monte. Adding a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt, the crunchy little pyramidal crystals crushed lightly in my palm, never hurts either.

Lentil Soup with Herbes de Provence

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into half-moon slices
1 celery rib, chopped
1 (heaping) cup green lentils (I used 1 cup plus a couple of tablespoons that were left in the bag)
1 tsp herbes de Provence (I like the Whole Foods 365 brand, which contains savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon, and lavender - pretty standard)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your heat preference)
1 bay leaf
2 cups roughly chopped collard greens, tough stems removed (I used 1 bunch with 6 or 7 leaves)
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
an everyday extra-virgin olive oil (for cooking)
a special extra-virgin olive oil and Maldon sea salt (for finishing)
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of sea salt and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic, carrot, and celery, and stir for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add lentils, 5 cups of cold water, herbes de Provence, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp sea salt, and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until lentils are very tender and falling apart.
  3. Stir in collards, cover pot, and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes until greens are tender.
  4. Turn off heat and stir in parsley and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and finish each bowl with a drizzle of top-quality xvoo and a bit of Maldon sea salt.


  1. Nancy, my husband saw the picture of the soup, and he asked, "What kind of soup is that?" I pointed to the title, "It's A Very Humble Soup." We chuckled. This soup looks great, love all of the veggies.

  2. Hi Christine,
    Very cute! It doesn't get much more humble than a soup like this, I think. Except maybe stone soup. Oh, that reminds me of how much I loved that little book as a kid!

  3. A simple soup of legumes and greens is perfect for these days. I never underestimate a soup powered by lentils!

  4. This soup is VERY worthy of a post.
    Great tip about the lemon juice.