Feeling festive, or just faking it? If you fall into the latter camp, you’re not alone. I’ve been keeping a seat warm for you by the fire here, just waiting for until the holidays blow over. As much as I adore the merriment, the traditions, the seasonal treats, it’s hard to remain so jolly when it’s Christmas approximately six months of the year.
Beyond the standard Christmas creep, publishing deadlines mean I need to think about pecan pies and pinwheel cookies in June, at least. I’ve already had at least two Thanksgiving dinners before fireworks go out for the 4th of July. When it’s finally December, at long last, the best I can do is plaster on an ugly sweater and retreat for burgers after everyone else gets their second plates of glazed ham roast and gravy.
I love the holidays. I relish those early photo shoots and brainstorming sessions, garnishing my apartment with tinsel remnants after putting away all the other props. I just need a little palate cleanser, okay?
Before we dive head-first into the all-singing, all-dancing days of holly jolly revelry, let’s just take a breather. Clear the table of all the wrappings and bows, set aside menus for feast soon to come. Schedules are packed with events, work still needs some cursory attention, but I promise, there will be time. Right now, let’s just sit down to a bowl of soup, shall we?
It’s the kind of soup that hits the spot anytime, which makes it just so perfect for this moment. Hearty but not heavy, savory and soothing, it can lift the spirit for scrooges and saints alike. Tender, toothsome black lentils pop like caviar amidst a brothy base of simmered vegetables, tinted red with tomato and smoky paprika.
Whole almonds make an unexpected cameo, slightly softened from the heat, still bearing a resounding crunch at the core. It’s an unconventional addition I first (and only) encountered during my stint baking for a cafe, where the soup of the day was largely open to creative interpretation. I don’t know who first whipped up this idea, or if maybe it was an accident in the first place, but I happen to love the surprising combination of textures and tastes.
Don’t let the holiday season bully you into forced gaiety. One thing I’ve learned from years of crushing FOMO and endless deadlines is that if you take a moment to hit the reset button, start in on something completely different, and allow your mind to wander where it desires, ultimately, you’ll come back to the intended path stronger. Happier. Merrier. And in this case, with a full, and fully contented stomach.
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
- 1 Cup Diced Celery
- 1 Cup Shredded Carrots
- 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1/2 Cup Tomato Paste
- 1 1/2 Cups Black Lentils
- 2 1/2 Teaspoons Smoked Paprika
- 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce or Tamari
- 1/2 Cup Whole Almonds
- 6 Cups Water
- Ground Black Pepper
- Finely Minced Fresh Cilantro (Optional)
- Place the oil in a large pot over medium heat, and saute the onion, celery, and carrots until softened; about 4 - 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring periodically, for another 5 - 6 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and highly aromatic.
- Stir in the tomato paste, breaking it up as best you can. Add the lentils, paprika, vinegar, soy sauce or tamari, almonds, and finally, the water. Mix well to incorporate.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer or about 1 hour, until the lentils are tender.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with fresh cilantro, if desired.
Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, leftover soup will keep for about 1 week.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 161 Total Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 7g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 506mg Carbohydrates: 17g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 6g Sugar: 5g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 7g