I owe you a thousand apologies for being gone without notice for the last two weeks. Where was I, you ask? I went on a very last minute spring break adventure to Washington D.C. with the fam. Things lined up perfectly with the kids’ spring break and The Mister’s work so we packed, albeit haphazardly, and went off to explore D.C. And while it was fantastic to get away from our everyday lives and break the monotony, I sorely missed my kitchen, my tools, and YOU GUYS, my wonderful internet friends and readers who keep me going with this blog!
Yes! I thought about you guys often and how I was so far away, without posting anything. But I did manage to capture some pretty cool pictures of the cherry blossoms, which was hands down, my favorite part of the trip. You know, in between eating copious amounts of I-can-only-eat-this-because-I’m-on-vacation sorta outrageously, indulgently delicious food. But before we get back to our (f00d) business-as-usual sorta post, I want to take a minute to hit rewind, go back to last week, and really absorb how lucky I was that I got to spend some time looking at the cherry blossoms in full bloom. And this year, they bloomed a week early- totally unexpected but exciting for me to be there, after a decade, to see them.
What do cherry blossoms and D.C. have to do with food? Other than my desperate need to detox after my trip, they’re nice to look at. And I’m trying to figure out how to get some cherry blossoms in our backyard now. But mostly, I just really wanted to share their beauty with you guys.
So back to my food lovin’ post…
It always happens that after a trip and/or vacation, as much as I have a good time, by the last day, I’m ready to go home and get back to my routine. I need to detox and get back to eating our usual food. In other words, I need to detox from being overindulgent. And then I start to crave simple things like lentil soup. And vegetables like carrots. Please tell me it’s not just me…
So after the suitcases had been unpacked, which by the way, I did the night we got back. I deserve a medal for that one! And the laundry had been done, a fridge inventory had been finished, I did what I love to do: I cooked. I made a fully loaded lentil soup, bursting with the veggies that I so sorely missed. When I say loaded, I mean fully loaded, as in I didn’t need anything else to eat with the soup. It is not a starter. The soup is the meal. Have I mentioned that loaded and hearty soups are my go to for light and filling meals? Like broccoli cheddar soup or chicken tortilla soup. Oh, how I ? soup…
I’m no stranger to lentil soup but this soup was especially delicious. I veered from the traditional lentil soup, which can be one note, admit it. I added a surprising twist- balsamic vinegar. No, no, no, before you turn up your nose, stay with me. Balsamic vinegar is one of the most understated and underused ingredients. It is so concentrated in flavor and so complex yet it gets overshadowed so often. You get tangy and tart, you get sweetness, you get a saltiness and a hint of bitterness. It adds so much depth without adding very many calories.
And this soup really celebrates the humble legume. Usually, most lentil soups have one or two different types of lentils. I added three different kinds: brown, split pea, and yellow lentils to give a variation in texture and flavor. As the most commonly used one in lentil soups, brown lentils give the soup a softer body as they cook and partially melt into the vegetables. Split peas add a subtle sweetness that contrasts so well with the balsamic vinegar. And yellow lentils- my favorite- add a chewy texture. Because they take longer to cook, the yellow lentils retain their shape and texture to give the soup another layer of lentil-y goodness.
Let’s have a frank conversation about how this soup is loaded with veggies. Ohmydeliciousness the veg-e-tab-les! Shallots, carrots, celery, and spinach give the soup even more of a flavor (and nutritional) boost. The trick though, is to add the spinach in, right before serving so it retains it greeny goodness. It is, after all, called loaded lentil soup for a reason. I served the soup with a little bit of freshly shaved parmesan the first night we had the soup but it’s entirely optional. Add shards of parmesan or manchego. Or let the soup shine on it’s own- I’ll leave that to you.
If you make this soup, please comment and rate the recipe. Snap some pictures for IG and send a shout out by tagging me: @mannaandspice. I love, love, love hearing from each and every one of my readers!
And a few more of the flowers from my trip because flowers+me= eternal happiness.
- 3/4 cup brown lentils
- 1/2 cup green split peas
- 1/2 cup yellow lentils
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 shallots diced
- 1 cup celery diced
- 2 cups carrots diced
- 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 6–9 cups water or low sodium vegetable broth*
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 3–4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over low heat. Add shallots and garlic; stir to coat and let cook until the shallots become tender and translucent and garlic becomes fragrant. Add in carrots, celery, and salt. Continue cooking for 10 minutes, until vegetables become soft.
- Add lentils and stir to incorporate into vegetable mixture. Stir in cumin, pepper, chili powder, and lemon juice**. Slowly add 4 cups of broth and bring to a simmer. Add in thyme. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat. Remove lid and stir in 2 more cups of broth. Stir in balsamic vinegar, cover and simmer for another 20 minutes. Add more liquid as necessary.
- When the lentils become fork tender remove from heat and stir in parsley. Stir in spinach and serve hot, garnishing with shaved parmesan or manchego cheese, if desired.
*I ended up using all 9 cups of liquid. You may need less or more depending on how long you cook the soup and how well your pot is able to retain heat.
**the lemon juice will provide enough liquid to deglaze the pan and scrape off bits of vegetables that may have gotten stuck to the pot.