In Season: Lentils

Year long

Lentil soup. Everyone has a recipe. It is like a woolen pair of hiking socks—sturdy, sustaining and well, a little bit crunchy granola, if you know what I mean. I have nothing against the typical brown lentil soup. In fact, I think that kind of soup definitely has its place in winter repertoire. But it’s not quite winter; I am not ready to say hello to that type of food yet!

Enter red lentil soup. Red lentils are actually brown lentils, which have been shucked of their coarse, dark skin. What emerges is the buttery, delicate red interior. Because of this shucking process they are relatively quick cooking, but they also tend to fall apart when simmered. But in the case of this red lentil soup, which is essentially a puree, it doesn’t really matter.

I think that the earthiness of lentils lends itself well to the bright, pungency of oranges. So you will find the use of both orange zest, and orange juice in this recipe. I have also made a sort of tapenade of briny, black olives. This tapenade is to garnish the soup. I have found the olives to offer an additional savory aspect to an otherwise neutral bowl of soup.

Red Lentil Soup with Black Olive Tapenade

For the soup:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
Zest of one orange
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups red lentils
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
Salt to taste

For the tapenade:

1/2 cup black olives, Kalamata or Nicoise, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
Juice of one orange
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pepper to taste

To make the soup:

In a small soup pot, or dutch oven, over medium high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, and some salt, and sweat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Mix in thyme, tomato paste, and zest. Continue sautéing until fragrant. Add the broth, water, lentils and carrots. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lentils should be cooked, and carrots softened. Season with additional salt, if needed.

Turn off heat. Remove approximately ½ of the soup, and process either with a hand blender or a regular blender until smooth. Add the processed mixture back to the soup pot. Reheat to a simmer before serving garnished with tapenade.

To make the tapenade:

Mix all of the ingredients, Stir to thoroughly combine. Tapenade can be made in advance, and reserved until ready to serve.

Adrienne Kane is a writer and photographer. She is the author of a memoir, Cooking and Screaming, and the food blog,

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