Lentil Soup for New Year's Day

New Year's Day Lentil Soup
New Year's Day Lentil Soup

The flat, round shape of lentils recalls that of tiny coins so they figure prominently among “good luck” foods for the New Year.  In Italy it’s traditional to serve cotechino sausage or the famous zampone of Modena with lentils for the holiday.

Here’s an entirely more humble but nonetheless delicious lentil soup that incorporates some enticing flavors.

Makes about 2 quarts finished soup

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3 tablespoons olive oil

About 4 to 5 ounces each peeled white onion, peeled carrots, celery hear with leaves, and green bell pepper, finely diced

8 ounces, about 1 generous cup, brown lentils, picked over and rinsed

10 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder or smoked Spanish paprika

Bouquet garni:  5-6 parsley stems, 2 sprigs thyme, 2 medium bay leaves, and 4 cloves garlic, crushed, tied in a small cheesecloth bag

Extra-virgin olive oil for serving

  1. Pour the olive oil into a 5- to 6-quart soup pot or enameled iron Dutch oven. Add the diced vegetables and set over medium heat. Once the vegetables start to sizzle, stir once or twice, decrease the heat, and cover the pan. Sweat the vegetables until softened, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Uncover the pan, increase the heat, and stir in cumin and chili powder, followed by the lentils and water. Bring to a boil and add the salt and the bouquet garni.
  3. Decrease the heat to a steady simmer and cook the soup until the lentils have softened and are starting to disintegrate, about 2 hours. If the soup is cooking too quickly you may need to add water.
  4. Serve the soup in heated soup plates drizzled with a teaspoon of olive oil if you wish.