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Lentilles du Puy.  Three little words.  With such Big. Whoppin’. Impact.  French green lentils expound my incessant love affair with the South of France.  I discovered these petit buggers during our first lunch in Provence .  It was love at first bite, I tell ya.  Upon (reluctantly) returning home, I hunt down these all-star dried legumes and start to dream of the many ways to incorporate such a mini-tour-de-force into our meals.  They are the Mighty Mouse of all legumes, a powerhouse of nutrition stored in the smallest of packages.

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And, they’re so darn pretty to look at – smooth, curvy, with a shade of blue-green that a Benjamin Moore paint color could be named after – that I barely want to cook them.  All these years of befriending only their musty, brown siblings.  What was I thinking?  I will make up for lost time.  French green lentils are now a part of our staples, just like milk, bread and um…chocolate.  I get immense comfort knowing my staples are resting quietly behind closed doors, ready at a moment’s notice whenever I need them.  I also feel immense happiness after simple staples transform themselves into a super tasty, nutritious, and satisfying meal.

French green lentils + some garlic + some fresh thyme + mirepoix, with a toss of cumin and broth, equals a soup that will have you coming back for seconds, and dare I say, thirds.  This stuff is so good, that I’ve eaten it the following day (when Tony doesn’t finish it off) cold, straight from the fridge, for lunch – or breakfast even.  It’s usually a race to see who gets to it first.  Hence, the breakfast option.

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Lucky for us, a much needed summer storm fell our way with thunder, lightning and the works (which is pretty special in our neck of the woods) and offered me the perfect opportunity to dust off the Le Creuset and prepare a batch of French Green Lentil Soup.  The cool evening breeze and the smell of just fallen rain made the perfect backdrop for a trip down memory lane to Provence, the South of France and those three little words, Lentilles du Puy.

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French Green Lentil Soup
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina Garten

French green lentils are available in your specialty food store or by mail-order.  I buy them right in our bulk food section.  If you love this soup, don’t forget to check out my favorite potato and leek soup and pumpkin soup.

Music Pairing: C’est L’amour, Edith Piaf

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 medium onions)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (2 large cloves)
  • 3 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

Method

In a small bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain. In a dutch oven over medium heat, sauté onions, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and sauté for 5 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 1 hour, until the lentils are cooked through. Uncover and check the soup periodically to ensure there is enough broth and/or water to cover the lentils.  Add more if needed.  Check the seasonings and adjust to taste.  Stir in red wine vinegar.  Serve hot, topped with a dollop of sour cream, cilantro and sprinkled with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

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