Taco Lentil Soup

With the weather starting to cool off, soup/stew season has officially arrived! To “celebrate” on this dreary, drizzly day, I whipped up an old favorite: taco lentil soup. I got the recipe from a friend (original source uncertain), who made it for me when I visited her for dinner a few years ago. Since then, I’ve played around with it a bit, always enjoying the little variations I’ve come up with, but it’s always been a reliable fixture in my rotation, whether I’m running or not! Tonight’s version is featured below.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 packet taco seasoning (I like Ortega or Old El Paso)
  • 1 14.5 oz can vegetable broth + 1 can water
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained (can also substitute ~1 cup dried black beans)
  • 1 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (can also substitute ~1 cup dried garbanzo beans)
  • 1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Sauté until translucent, ~5 minutes. Add garlic and taco seasoning, stir until taco seasoning evenly coats the onions, and sauté for another minute.
  2. Add the broth and water, tomatoes, beans, and lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45-60 minutes, or until beans and lentils are tender.
  3. Serve with sour cream (or plain yogurt) and shredded cheese as toppings. Pairs nicely with a plain or whole-wheat baguette.
  4. Serves 4-6.

OPTIONAL TWEAKS

  • Sauté onion with ~1/4-1/2 cup red wine.
  • Add 1 cup of frozen corn (or 1 14.5 oz can) along with the beans.
  • Throw in a few cups of your leafy green of choice about 10-15 minutes before taking the soup off the heat.
  • Add a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro at the very end, or use as garnish.

Summer Cooking: Kale Tabbouleh

I suppose you could say my love for running and my love for food go hand-in-hand. I started getting into cooking right around the time I started running in my early 20s. Sure, takeout Chinese food and midnight pizzas were delicious, and I had no qualms about indulging on a fairly regular basis, especially during half-marathon training! For my day-to-day life as a runner, though, I felt infinitely more energetic if I ate mostly homemade, veggie-based food. I was by no means a master chef when I first started, but got surprisingly far on assorted combinations of rice/various grains, beans/legumes, leafy green veggies, and cheese.

Then and now, I almost exclusively cook vegetarian meals at home, partially in an effort to be more environmentally friendly, but also because I am completely squicked out by the texture of raw meat. That’s not to say I never eat meat; I do occasionally (mostly if someone else makes it for me), but it’s not a huge part of my diet at all. Hooray, flexitarianism!

Summer has always been a little challenging for me in the kitchen, though. Most of my go-to recipes are soups and stews, and who wants to stand over a hot stove in the middle of July? Salads are a good option, but as a runner, they sometimes don’t feel substantial enough and I end up hungry again an hour later. As a result, at this time of year, I’m constantly on the lookout for creative ideas for filling, protein-packed, mostly cold dishes to try. Lo and behold, a friend recently sent along this New York Times Cooking recipe for a kale tabbouleh, and it has quickly earned a top slot in my summer meal rotation. It’s relatively simple, it will fill you up, and there are a LOT of possible variations. My adjusted version of the NYT recipe with my own added commentary (in parentheses):

INGREDIENTS

  • cup fine bulgur, dry (you can also substitute quinoa…both are good cold)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped (red onion would work as a substitute, too)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ~1 teaspoon fine salt (adjust depending on your taste)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch kale (~5 cups), stems removed, leaves chopped (or torn) into 1-2 in. pieces
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, diced, ~2 cups (you can sub sun-dried tomatoes for a slightly different flavor)
  • ½ cup torn mint leaves
  • ½ cup diced radish*
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained, or ~1 cup dried garbanzo beans, cooked and drained*
  • 6-8 oz. feta cheese*

*=Optional additions, do as many or as few as you want

PREPARATION

  1. Prep veggies. Cook bulgur (and garbanzo beans, if desired) according to package instructions.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, shallot, cumin and salt. Whisk in olive oil.
  3. In a large bowl, toss together kale, tomatoes, mint and radish. Once the bulgur (and optional garbanzo beans) are cooked, stir those in. You can let the hot ingredients cool first, but I like how they help tenderize the kale if they are thrown in right off the stove. Toss in dressing. If you want to add feta, toss it in just before serving.

Enjoy, and be sure to leave your favorite variations in the comments!