Regular readers of this blog may have noticed a lot of lentil-based soups lately.
There are a couple of reasons for this. As I mentioned a couple of months ago, my college aged daughter, Maggie Mae, announced this Fall that she was becoming a vegetarian. I want to make sure she has a lot of high quality, easy to make vegetarian recipes available to her, especially those that can easily fit into a college student’s budget.
The second reason is that lentils are an amazing source of protein, especially for people who aren’t getting protein from meat. Lentils have the third highest amount of protein among all plants, behind only soybean and hemp plants. The lentil — which actually is a pulse, not a bean — has about 30 percent of its calories coming from protein. It’s also unusually high in iron.
Lentils are an inexpensive source of proteins, which is especially important in some of the poorest regions of the world, including India and western Asia, both of whose populations have a significant percentage of vegetarians.
Lentils are one of the oldest foods in recorded history, having first been cultivated more than 13,000 years ago. They are mentioned many times in the Old Testament, and they are a part of many nations’ cultural history. In Italy, for example, it is good luck to eat lentils on New Year’s Eve.
In this soup recipe, I combined them with one of my all-time favorite winter vegetables, rutabaga. My grandfather used to call them yellow turnip, but I’ve never heard anybody else call them that, so I think that may have been just an Irish thing. I like the balance between the slight cabbage flavor of the rutabaga and the sweetness of the curry.
Curried Rutabaga and Lentil Soup
2 TBS EVOO, separate
8 oz dried lentils
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery
3-4 white mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
32 oz vegetable stock (or just water)
1 TBS curry powder
1 tsp fennel seed
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Then you need to peel the rutabaga, which usually comes covered in wax to keep it fresh. To do this, slice off the top and bottom, then lay the rutabaga bottom flat on the cutting board and use the knife to slice downward to remove the outer skin. After peeling, cut the root vegetable in half, then cut into 1/2 inch cross sections. Lay these flat, then cut into Lincoln Log sized sticks. Toss in EVOO, lay out on sheet pan and cook until soft, about 45 minutes. If they get a little brown, that’s good because it adds flavor. This can be done up a day or two ahead of time.
2. Put soup pot on the fire. When hot, add EVOO. When smoking, add onion, carrot and celery and cook until onion translucent, about five mintues. Add mushroom and cook until soft, about another 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add lentils, curry powder and fennel seeds and stir until everything is covered in oil, then add the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes.
3. Cut rutabaga sticks into large dice peices and add to soup. Cook until the rutabaga is heated through about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Have you been participating in Meat Free Mondays? If so, what kind of vegetarian dishes have you been making? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!