Lentil soup does not sound like a summertime dish. Unless it’s this Mark Bittman version, made with tart rhubarb and spiced with cardamom, cloves, garlic, and fresh ginger.
Wait, you’re probably saying — rhubarb? The stuff that you usually make strawberry-rhubarb pies out of? Why would you put something capable of creating such deliciousness into lentil soup instead of into, say, a pie? Or a cobbler, even?
Well, because there are only so many strawberry-rhubarb pies that one can eat. (That’s not actually true — there’s no limit to the number of strawberry-rhubarb pies that I can eat. But we’ll pretend that there is.) And once you’ve eaten that many pies, you’ll want something healthy and delicious, like this lentil soup.
And also because:
It’s fast and easy. Lentils don’t require any of the pre-soaking that beans need, and they cook up in no time: 30-45 minutes, and all you have to do is stir once in a while.
It’s healthy. This soup is high in protein and fiber, low in fat and sugar. (Unlike a lot of canned soups out there — I am amazed at how much added sugar is in some of those!)
It’s gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian as long as you use the appropriate kind of stock (you can also just use water). Apparently some paleo people avoid legumes, even though legumes are incredibly good for you. If anyone has a good explanation (based on credible, peer-reviewed science), please leave it in the comments.
Make-ahead dinners. It’s even better the next day. Or even four or five days later, which is great later in the week when the kitchen is too hot or you’re too tired to actually cook anything for dinner. Give it a good stir, heat it up (if you want — it’s also pretty good cold), and voila.
Anyway, what else are you going to do with all that extra rhubarb?
No rhubarb? Bittman suggests you substitute another fruit, like peaches or tomatoes. Maybe that leftover fruit salad from the weekend? (And I know: rhubarb is actually a vegetable, not a fruit. But as part of a vast culinary conspiracy, we all treat it as a fruit. It’s the opposite of tomatoes, zucchini, and the rest of the fruits that we pretend are vegetables.)
If you have rhubarb but you’re not ready to make soup, just chop the rhubarb up and freeze it until you need it — fresh or frozen, it will pretty much dissolve by the time the lentils are cooked.
And it really is pretty tasty. Even my husband said it was really good, and he’s not usually that enthusiastic about lentils. (He wishes me to clarify that he likes lentils just fine. But I would like to further clarify that, unlike me, he is not usually happy to eat a big bowl of plain lentils for dinner. To say nothing of the somewhat snide comments he’s made about my lentil muffins.)
The full recipe is in Mark Bittman’s The VB6 Cookbook. VB6 stands for “vegan before 6 p.m.,” which is how Bittman eats. Sort of. Actually the way he eats is “lots of vegetables and fruits; moderate amounts of legumes, healthy fats, and whole grains; and very little meat, dairy, refined sugar and flour, alcohol, or processed foods (only at dinner-time or as the occasional treat),” but that doesn’t make for nearly as catchy a book title.