Red Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions

I have been all about red lentils lately. They make the best soup, they’re such a pretty orangey-red color (which unfortunately changes to yellow when they’re cooked), and they are hopefully pretty healthy (I’ll have to check on that).

I normally cook them with Indian spices (mustard seeds, a little asafetida, cumin…) but this recipe called for cinnamon and bay leaves and it was AWESOME. Tangent: cooking onions with a cinnamon stick smells absolutely divine. Anyway, you cook up some onions with cinnamon and bay leaves, add the lentils and broth, and then (and this is the key) top the soup with caramelized onions. It is awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that I was extra inspired and made two different side dishes to go with the meal: I roasted some cauliflower with curry powder and salt, and I tossed some sliced cucumbers with yogurt, fresh mint, lime zest, and a little paprika.

EDITED TO ADD: The picture below was expertly styled by Mike. I had put my camera away but this looked so much better than the pictures I’d taken earlier I had to get another shot.

This was definitely a much bigger hit with Mike than my white bean pesto…

Recipe:
(adapted from A New Way To Cook)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced crosswise
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
1 finely chopped garlic clove
pinch cayenne pepper
2 cups red lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
2-3 cups hot water
juice of 1 lemon
salt

2 tsp butter (OR Smart Balance or other vegan butter substitute)
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, cut into thin half-circles
pinch salt
chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, bay leaves, and cinnamon and cook until the onions are soft (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, ginger, and cayenne and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the lentils and stir them so they’re coated with oil. Add 2 cups of broth and 2 cups of warm water. Stir well, then bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the additional cup of broth and water, as well as the the lemon juice while the soup is cooking, adding additional liquid if it gets too thick. Add about a teaspoon of salt. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have completely broken down into a smooth, creamy soup.

While the soup is simmering, caramelize the onions. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet. Add the onions and cook over low, sirring occasionally for about 20 minutes, until onions are very soft and brown. Season with a little salt.

To serve the soup, ladle it into bowls and top with onions and cilantro.

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