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Friday, February 8, 2013

Lentil Rice Soup with Caramelized Onions

This is the best thing I have made all year. Yes, I know we are only just barely into February and this is only the 18th recipe I have posted. I would trade in everything else if I could only keep this one soup. Seriously, even the peanut butter cookies.
Last weekend I couldn't decide what I wanted for dinner. I was craving comfort food, but all the old comforts weren't sounding very good. I was poking around the internet, looking at some things I had pinned to Pinterest. Nothing. I hesitated on shrimp and grits. I think it's because I have been watching too much of The Taste. They really seem to like their shrimp and grits. Still, it just wasn't grabbing me. So, I did what I always do when I am stumped. I pulled out a few of my seasonal cookbooks. Somehow winter recipes seemed too heavy, and I wasn't ready for spring. Finally, I got to Melissa Clark's book, "Cook this Now" which is broken down by month. There it was, in the February chapter. I wasn't entirely sold on the lentil soup, but the caramelized onions sounded pretty good. It really wasn't until I sat down for dinner that I realized this was exactly what I needed. The first time around I topped it with cilantro, but he next day for lunch I used mint. Both were equally good. I couldn't believe how well this hit the spot, just the right blend of healthy, yet indulgent for this time of year. I'm thinking of making another pot this weekend. David asked if I could make extra caramelized onions next time. He wants me to put them in a jar in the fridge to use as a condiment. Sounds like a pretty good idea.
What about you? Are you feeling more winter or spring for cooking this time of year? What's on your menu this weekend?
Lentil Rice Soup with Caramelized Onions
adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark

For the Onions:
3 medium onions, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
pinch of salt

For the soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch ground allspice
1 bay leaf
8 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups red lentils
1/2 cup white basmati rice
4 cups baby spinach leaves
fresh chopped mint or cilantro, for topping
lime wedges, for topping
large flake sea salt, for topping

To make onions:
Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted add the onions. Cook until the onions become soft and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook for another 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and turn the heat to high. Cook stirring infrequently until onions are crispy and a bit charred, another 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

To make soup:
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and bay leaf. Cook and stir for one minute until spices release their fragrance. Add the vegetable stock, 1 cup of water, rice, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Stir in the lentils and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Add spinach and let wilt.
Serve topped with caramelized onions, a squeeze of lime juice, and a sprinkle of mint (or cilantro) and sea salt.


  1. Oooo, I love lentils. And Lord knows that anything one puts caramelized onions into is going to be amazing. I know what I'M making this weekend!

    1. Enjoy! I think it is just the thing for this time of year.

  2. My favorite caramelized onion trick - when you make them, make a HUGE batch. (I saw somewhere - Pinterest? - a way to do a big batch in the crock pot...) Then freeze in an ice cube tray. Little pops of flavor, into soup, into whatever you are cooking. When I remember and have time for it, its the BEST.

  3. What a great tip, thanks Kate! I'm definitely thinking I need more caramelized onions in my diet.

  4. I love the look of this recipe. I have some lentils leftover and was looking for a recipe and I found it. I actually saw this on Huffington Post. I am a blogger and I was hoping you could share with me how you submit recipes to HP?

    1. Peter,
      Thanks for stopping by. This soup is still one of my favorites, in fact I have it on the grocery list for this weekend. My experience with Huffington Post is that they contact you when they find a recipe of yours that they would like to share. My guess, although I don't know for sure is that when they are doing a round up they search sites like Foodgawker and Tastespotting, maybe even Pinterest looking for other recipes that fit their theme. They then contact the blogger and ask permission to use the recipe. I think the more exposure you have, the more likely they are to pick up your work. Good luck.

  5. Nicole, I've made this soup quite a few times now and it always gets rave reviews. I made the caramelized onions in a crockpot last night and it seemed to work pretty well. We have a very small one here at the lake, so it only held about 2.5 pounds. They cooked down nicely in about 12 hours. I'm draining them to use the liquid to boost the veggie stock for the soup. I'll probably give the caramelized onions a quick trip through a saute pan with butter to warm them for putting on the soup tomorrow at lunch. Thanks for the great recipes you test, improve, and share with us!

    1. I'm just now seeing this! This soup is one of my favorites too. I still make it often. So glad to see people still come here to find recipes.


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