If I were to write a book about my time here in Syracuse, I would call it “Everything Is Ice.” Because it is. I wouldn’t say it’s brutally cold because that word should probably be reserved for places higher up north – like Canada – but, the temperature is rarely above freezing and it has not stopped snowing since mid-December.
At first, it was cute. Staying in all weekend long, watching the snowflakes dance outside, cooking through gorgeous cookbooks, and cozying up on the couch with whatever I’d just made. But by now it’s gotten old – way old – and I find myself counting the days until spring (35). I’ve basically felt cold for the past two months straight and have learned the hard way how expensive it is to heat a stand-alone house (a recent bill came out to $340…). So now we wear sweaters to sleep and two layers of socks plus thermals at all times. And we eat soup. Lots of soup.
Our typical standby is a spicy Thai-style coconut milk curry; soba with vegetables in this mushroom broth comes in second. Both are excellent antidotes to the cold and go great with double socks. Recently though, we’ve been relying on the super easy lentil soup from Laura Wright’s The First Mess cookbook, who is in fact from brutally cold Canada. (If you’re not familiar with her blog of the same name, check it out! It’s stunning and the recipes are drool-worthy.)
This unfussy recipe starts with the classic trio of onions, carrots, and celery, which gives the soup a sweet and earthy base. After adding the lentils, stock, and tomatoes, you can basically leave the pot alone until the lentils are cooked through, which usually takes about 30 minutes, making the soup doable even on a weeknight. The easy lentil soup gets its smokiness from a can of fire-roasted tomatoes as well as, you guessed it, smoked paprika – my go-to for adding depth to just about everything. I took the liberty of adding shiitakes and sweet potatoes to change up the texture; you could also stir in some greens in the end if you’d like. The flavorful soup is thick and hearty enough to be called a stew, which Rene always insists it is. This recipe makes a giant batch – about 10 servings. If you can’t finish it all in a week, freeze half of it for a snowy day.
This recipe is adapted from The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright (Avery, 2017). It makes a giant batch of soup – about 10 servings. If you can’t finish it all in a week, freeze half of it for a snowy day, or halve the recipe. Feel free to stir in some greens (kale, spinach, or chard) at the end if you’d like.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- Sea salt
- 1 cup sliced shiitakes (fresh or frozen)
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup French green lentils, picked through for stones and rinsed
- 6 cups vegetable stock* (low sodium, if possible)
- 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (no salt added, if possible)
- 1 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (no salt added, if possible)
- 1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Optional (to serve): fresh thyme, basil, parsley or cilantro, cubed avocado, sour cream, toasted sourdough, tortilla chips
- Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot (I use a Dutch oven) over medium-low heat and add the onion, carrots, celery, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to coat and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes.
- Add the shiitakes and cook for another 2 minutes (a little longer if using frozen). Stir in the garlic, thyme, paprika, and black pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the lentils, stock, and tomatoes. Raise the heat to high, cover tightly with a lid, and bring to a boil.
- Add the sweet potatoes, reduce the heat to low, and simmer with the lid ajar until the lentils and sweet potato are cooked through**, 25-30 minutes. Season with pepper and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt, or to taste.
- To serve, garnish with fresh herbs and extra black pepper. Serve with avocado, sour cream, bread, or tortilla chips, if desired.
- *I use a 1-quart container of stock plus 2 cups of water.
- **The cooking time of lentils depends on their age: the older they are, the longer they’ll take. Be sure to buy your lentils at your store’s bulk bin or anywhere that has high turnover.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 171
- Sodium: 384 g
- Carbohydrates: 26.8
- Fiber: 9.3 g
- Protein: 7.3 g
- Cholesterol: 0 g