TRADITIONAL GREEK LENTIL SOUP

By Despina Panagakos Yeargin
@despidoodle

Published in the TML Magazine Issue 8, 2020

Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium-large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, mashed and chopped
  • 1 (1lb) bag brown lentils (2 1⁄4 cups) rinsed in a colander to remove surface dirt
  • 2-3 large bay leaves
  • 28 ounces of canned diced tomatoes with juice or the equivalent of fresh, peeled and cored tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 cups of water plus more as needed
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot and stir in the onion and salt. Continue to cook gently until the onions have softened, stirring as needed.
  2. Add the garlic, bay leaves, pepper and lentils. Stir to coat lentils with seasonings and oil, then add the tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cover the pot.
  3. Keep an eye on the liquid, adding 1 cup of water as needed. Sometimes lentils can soak up water very rapidly. The soup should be thick, but still soupy.
  4. Cook until lentils are tender (about 1 hour). Some of the lentils will break down and add a creamy component to the soup, and the remainder will be soft but still intact. This happens magically in the pot. You have to be patient to allow the creaminess to happen. There should not be any crunch – all tender to the tooth.
  5. Ladle into bowls and top with the traditional garnish.

Traditional Garnish (optional)

Top each bowl of soup with one teaspoon of red wine vinegar, two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and three Kalamata olives. This is not a dressing to be shaken, and the quantities serve only as a guide. Drizzle the vinegar and olive oil directly onto the soup and finish with the whole olives.

Traditional Accompaniments (not optional)

Good Feta cheese (which is served on the side like a pickle and not crumbled into the soup) and a really good, oven-fresh piece of bread are necessary. Make it a thick piece of bread. A large bite of the bread and a tiny bite of cheese should precede every other spoonful of soup. This may require another big piece of bread. Trust me, you won’t regret the extra bread. Remember, this is about comfort, not denial.

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