The other day, when I asked my sister what kind of soup she wanted for dinner, she quickly replied lentil. I researched some recipes and started chopping vegetables. Later when we sat down to dinner I realized she was only kidding! Luckily the soup was hearty and delicious and my entire family enjoyed it. The original recipe has you puree the soup, but I left it chunky for texture. The croutons add a nice crunch, but don't directly affect the flavor of the soup. Paired with a green salad and a glass of red wine, this is one excellent Winter meal. To see how I made it, read more.

Lentil Soup
From Food & Wine magazine

1 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces Serrano ham or lean bacon*, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium leek, white and tender green parts only, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 quarts plus 1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
2 cups brown lentils (3/4 pound), rinsed and picked over
2 cups firm-textured white bread, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large saucepan, melt the 1 tbsp. of butter in the olive oil.

  2. Add the Serrano ham, onion, leek, and carrot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.

  3. Add the stock and lentils and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Simmer the soup over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, toss the diced bread with the melted butter and bake for 8 minutes, or until browned.

  5. Puree the soup in a blender in batches**; transfer the puree to a clean saucepan. Add the cream, bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper.

  6. Serve the soup in bowls, garnished with the croutons.

Serves 8.

Make ahead: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. The croutons can be kept in an airtight container overnight.

*Sadly I could not find Serrano ham anywhere so I used bacon.
**I opted not to puree the soup.