Rustic Lentil Soup

MAKES 6 SERVINGS • PREP TIME: 20 minutes • COOK TIME: 40 minutes

At restaurants, my dad didn’t see a set line where the salad bar ended and the soup bar began. He’d stride up, bowl in hand, and ladle away to his heart’s content. Other folks may have looked on aghast, but my dad was a real culinary alchemist; he knew which ingredients played well together. This soup pays homage to his wizardry. It has a hybrid quality, probably because it started out as a lentil dish braised in red wine, which I loved, but then realized it was just a few tweaks away from being a hearty lentil soup. Like dad, I experimented to find the right combination of taste and heft, because to me watery soup is like finding a bill in the mailbox instead of a check. Lentils are so good for helping regulate blood sugar levels that everyone should consume them often; in an effort to lure those who aren’t especially fond of lentils, I’ve made them enticing by surrounding them with mushrooms, red wine, Swiss chard, garlic, and a host of herbs and spices.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced small
Sea salt
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 celery stalks, diced small
1 cup finely diced parsnips
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed well (see Cook's note)
7 cups Magic Mineral Broth or store-bought vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups stemmed and chopped Swiss chard, in bite-size pieces

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, parsnips, mushrooms, and another pinch of salt and sauté until all of the vegetables are tender and becoming deep golden brown, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds, then stir in the thyme, oregano, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Pour in the wine to deglaze the skillet, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the pan. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, and lentils. Add the broth and the bay leaf. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

Taste; you may want to add a spritz of lemon juice or a pinch of salt. Stir in the Swiss chard and cook until it’s tender, about 3 minutes.

VARIATIONS: Substitute fennel, which is a good digestive aid, for the celery to add more depth to the flavor. If you aren’t a fan of mushrooms, just leave them out. You can substitute 1 cup of broth for the wine, or substitute the juice** from the canned tomatoes combined with broth to equal 1 cup.

COOK'S NOTE: You don’t have to presoak lentils, but rinse them well in a bowl of cold water and use your hands to swish them around. Drain and repeat until the water is clear. Don’t boil lentils, which makes them mushy and tends to cause them to fall apart. Let the lentils simmer for a nice, tender texture.

Reprinted with permission from The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods Copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.