Liza’s Lentil Soup, Italian Style

On a long and very steamy day a couple of summers ago, I shot a series of 10 cooking videos for ehow.com. I didn’t love them (they’re way too long and my hair is awful), but I was thinking about cooking lentil soup this week and remembered that one of the videos shows me making my balsamic-spiked version, which I like a lot.

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It’s fairly straightforward, but what sets it apart from the classic Jewish-deli lentil soup is that it’s intensified with tomato paste, beer and a splash of good balsamic vinegar. It’s rich and very flavorful and absolutely right this time of year. Plus, it’s a snap — particularly with the .

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Italian-Style Lentil Soup

1 small onion, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon thyme
¼ cup tomato paste
2 cups lentils, preferably the small dark green ones like lentils de puys
5 cups water
8 ounces beer or an additonal cup of water
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good quality aged balsamic vinegar

1) In a large pot over low heat, cook the onion in the olive oil until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the thyme and tomato paste and cook, stirring, for a minute or so.

2) Add the lentils, water, beer, salt and pepper, cover and cook 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are soft but not mushy. Turn off the heat and add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

3) For the best consistency, use an emersion blender for about 10–15 seconds to blend some (but not all) of the lentils. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzling each portion with a touch more balsamic before serving.

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Liza Schoenfein is food editor of the Forward. Contact her at schoenfein@forward.com and follow her at @lifedeathdinner. Her personal blog is Life, Death & Dinner.

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