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Lentil soup

I use split red lentils to make this dish.  They cook very quickly and don't have to be soaked.  You should pick through them first, however, to check for stems or stones, then rinse them throughly with fresh water to clean off any remaining dirt or debris.  Lentils are loaded with fiber, protein, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, folic acid, pantothenic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and B6.  Red lentils will turn yellow as they cook, so don't be surprised when the soup isn't the same color as the raw lentils.

Start by making a soffritto, the Italian cousin of the mirepoix.  Chop 1 cup of carrots, 1 cup of celery, 2 cups of onion, and about 5 or 6 cloves of garlic.  Saute in olive oil until soft.  Add 2 cups of lentils, 6 cups of chicken broth, 2 large bay leaves, a teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón ahumado), and some fresh black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. If you use brown or green lentils, it may take longer.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar.  You can puree the soup if you prefer it smoother, but I just serve it as is.

Serve garnished with croutons, fresh parsley and/or heavy cream, greek yogurt or sour cream.

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