After the holidays' repeated culinary excesses, my mouth, stomach, and soul are all screeching for something quite simple and healthful. This lentil soup always fits the bill. I'm not sure if it's the folic acid-loaded lentils or the fresh, cleansing flavor of the parsley that does it for me, but whatever it is, I'm hooked.
The recipe is based on one from my favorite cookbook, Alice Waters' Vegetables, and was first introduced to me one winter night in Virginia by my mother-in-law. Judy presented the lentil soup in beautiful earthenware bowls that somehow made it seem that much tastier, and served it up with a fresh green salad, thick slices of olive bread, and a lovely bright Italian red wine.
As soups go, it somehow manages to be both rustic and refined with the tiny French green lentils and the small dice of the carrots and onions. I find it eminently satisfying and always make enough for several days of leftovers.
A word on lentils: the soup calls for a combo of brown and red lentils, but Judy used green Le Puy, and that -- with a few other changes to the original recipe -- is how I've continued to make it. (Sometimes I add the tiny black beluga lentils to the green just to vary colors, sizes, and textures.) In my experience, the very best green Le Puy and black Beluga lentils can be found under the brand name of Cassoulets USA. They come from Twin Falls, Idaho and cook up far more evenly and firmly than any other brand of green Le Puy lentils I've found in high-end grocery stores.