Dana Slatkin

Hearty Vegan French Lentils (and Soup) with Balsamic Syrup

Hearty Vegan French Lentil Soup with Balsamic Syrup

Hearty Vegan French Lentil Soup with Balsamic Syrup

Lentils get no respect. Mention that they are on the menu and be prepared for grimaces and groans. Is it because they are so über-nutritious, packing fiber, iron, magnesium, folate, two B-vitamins and protein, all with virtually no fat? Or is it because they are just plain dark and mushy? This recipe might help defend the hapless legumes from a forgotten fate in your household.

French Lentils, Used in Making Lentil Soup

Green or brown lentils are delicious but not a pretty sight when overcooked. I prefer the delicate du Puy variety (imported from France, available at any gourmet market), which are a dramatic black hue, and so small they will easily slip through the holes of a colander. Do use a fine-meshed sieve to rinse them briefly and pick out any small tidbits that resemble imposters.

The key to making this dish elegant and appetizing is to match the dice of the vegetables to the size of the lentils (which is why you won’t ever see the beluga variety on my table). Then build up savory layers of flavor, starting with a good fruity olive oil, then adding the vegetables, sausage (I like the Morningstar vegetarian patties), wine, broth, and herbs. As a final flourish, balsamic vinegar reduced to a syrup or Saba (available at Dean and DeLuca.com) adds a touch of sweet complexity. If you prefer your lentils in a soup, simply add another quart or so of broth. But don’t leave the pot on the stove too long and kill their chance for a little appreciation.

During soup season, you might also enjoy Plum Tomato Soup with Baby Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Farmers Market Vegetable Soup.

Photo credits: Daylife.com and Flickr.com

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