I love walking down the streets here and seeing lots of little verdulerias and fruterias with colorful produce piled high. Most people here don’t buy their produce in chain grocery stores, but instead stop by these neighborhood vegetable and fruit markets on a regular basis. It’s been a bit of adventure adjusting to this mindset, thinking ahead to what I need for an upcoming recipe (at these places, you tell the shopkeeper what you’re looking for and how much, which, with my limited but expanding Spanish, takes a little preparation) and trying out the multiple places near my apartment to find the best quality (and the place most willing to put up with my bad accent). I think I found my go-to verduleria though – an especially friendly place where the quality is great, and the prices unbelievably low. It was a cold, rainy day when I went to buy the vegetables for this Spanish red lentil and vegetable soup, but I came away feeling excited to prepare this bright, colorful recipe. Packed with roasted red bell peppers, bright orange carrots, fresh diced tomatoes, and green spinach, this soup is a visual treat compared to the often drab-looking (although tasty) bean and lentil soups I like to make. Not to mention the intense flavor packed in here, with the vegetables adding a lot of sweetness (really!), complemented by the spiciness of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. Red lentils add some extra heft (I like to cook them until they’re falling apart), making this recipe perfect for a hearty meal, especially on a rainy day.
Spanish Red Lentil Soup
Yield: 6 – 8 servings
- 4 – 6 bell peppers*
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, whole
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 3 tomatoes, diced
- 6 cups stock
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 large bunch spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
*Red or yellow are best as they’re sweeter and have more nutrients than the green ones.
- Over an open flame on a gas stove (or grill) or under the broiler in the oven, roast 4 – 6 bell peppers until the skin is blistered and charred. Rotate the peppers halfway through. This should take about 10 – 15 minutes using either method.
- Transfer the peppers to a paper bag or a bowl. Roll the top of the bag down or cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside until cooled (about 20 minutes), then remove the peppers, rub the skins to remove, chop off the stem, squeeze and scrape out the innards (seeds and membranes), and dice.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot or dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat, then sautee 1 onion, thinly sliced until translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add 4 cloves garlic, whole, 4 cloves garlic, minced, 1 Tbsp smoked paprika, and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, and sautee until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in 3 carrots, chopped until coated with the spices.
- Pour in 1 cup red wine, and cook, scraping to deglaze the pan, until the wine has reduced, a couple minutes.
- Add 1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over, 3 tomatoes, diced, 6 cups stock, 3 bay leaves, 1 tsp dried oregano, and 1 tsp dried thyme, stir together, then bring to a boil. Lower heat, and let simmer until the lentils and carrots are just about cooked, about 20 – 30 minutes.
- Stir in 1 large bunch spinach, roughly chopped and 1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped, and cook until the spinach has wilted, about 3 – 5 minutes.
- Add more stock or water, if needed, to thin to desired consistency, then add salt and pepper, to taste.