Elevating the Lowly Lentil

Foodie Friday

Oct 14, 2011 by

Many years ago, during what might be called my ‘Hippy Phase,’ I took a lentil salad to a potluck. A young, intense man approached me, declaring it the best lentil salad he had ever had. That started a brief but pleasant affair. He was a vegetarian who ended the relationship by declaring that meat-eaters smell different than vegetarians. This might be true, and his sensitivity might have been heightened by his daily pot habit.  We parted as friends and I gave him the recipe to share with the vegetarian woman who next caught his fancy.

Many years after that, I wrote cover copy for an advertising agency that handled several growers’ associations and learned more about lentils than I had ever imagined. High in fiber and protein, low in fat, quick cooking, they adopt to most flavors added to them.

The best suggestion from the lentil growers association was to cook them, puree them and add them to things like chocolate cake or brownies, a good way to get protein into kids’ – and others’- diets.

I’ve include the recipe for my favorite soup which can be vegetarian or meatless. And of course I’m sharing the famous lentil salad recipe. Maybe one of my single girl friends will be sought out for more than the recipe as a result.

Lentil Soup with Fennel, Spinach and Sausage


1 lb. spicy Italian Sausage – could be chicken, or any other kind you like (I prefer uncooked sausage, but you can use already cooked)

1 lb. dried lentils

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

2 T. olive oil

3 cloves garlic

1 medium onion

1 cup small or 3 large carrots

1 12 oz. package frozen chopped spinach

1 12 oz. can diced tomatoes or ½  can tomato paste

1 qt. chicken stock

2 cups red wine

1 cup half and half

Salt and pepper


  • Chop the onions, carrots, and garlic in processor and sauté in oil with the fennel seeds until vegetables are softened.
  • Add cut up sausage and cook until meat is no longer pink.
  • Rinse lentils and add to vegetables and sausage, stir to combine.
  • Add broth, wine and canned tomatoes (if using them)
  • Cook until lentils are soft – about 40 minutes.
  • Add more wine or broth to keep the mixture soupy
  • Add spinach and tomato paste if you haven’t used canned tomatoes.
  • Cook 15 minutes or longer.
  • 10 minutes before serving, add half and half and keep warm but don’t let it boil.

Keep tasting this soup to get the flavor balance you like. The fennel should be a subtle tone under the sausage and tomato/wine broth.

Serve with shredded parmesan cheese.

You can make this vegetarian by eliminating the sausage and using vegetable broth instead of chicken.

This soup improves its flavors over the following days and freezes well.

Lentil Salad with cilantro-yogurt dressing


1 lb. green lentils or French lentils

Medium onion studded with 3 cloves

Salt and pepper

1 bunch green onions

½ bunch cilantro

1 T. fresh oregano or 2 T. dry

1 Cup plain yogurt

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

Juice of ½ lemon


  • Cook Lentils until tender but not mushy in 3 quarts water with onion studded with cloves, salt and pepper and any other vegetables you like (makes a good broth to use as base for other soup.)
  • In processer, chop onion and cilantro coarsely and add the rest of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning.

Chill and serve

Graphic credit: EcoLibra

About the Author

Rebecca Crichton Has Written 40 Articles For Us!

I try to stay aware of one main concept: We see things through different lenses. We get caught in our own belief systems and most of us are pretty attached to being right. I am one of those inveterate Life Long Learners. I like new ideas, new experiences, new people, new challenges.
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