Lentils are very nutritious. Rich in minerals, vitamins and fiber, they contain more protein than whole grains like brown rice. They have an earthy, nutty flavor and are low in fat and have zero cholesterol.
Unlike other dried beans, lentils can be prepared the day of serving since a presoak is not necessary. Spread lentils on a light colored plate or board to check for and remove small stones or debris. Then place the lentils in a fine strainer and rinse them under cool running water. Purchase fresh lentils in a store where you know there is high product turnover to ensure freshness. Store them in an airtight container away from heat and moisture, they will stay fresh for about a year.
I chose a flavorful, aromatic cherrywood bacon for my soup. Choose a thick cut or slab bacon for easy dicing. Fry the chopped bacon in a heavy skillet, until brown and add to the slow cooker. In the rendered bacon fat, saute the onion and carrot until the onion is translucent, add them to the cooker. Now for the easy part, add the lentils, broth, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, smoked paprika and ground pepper to the slow cooker.
Green or brown lentils work best in this recipe because they hold their shape. I cooked the soup on low for seven hours and turned it off before we went to bed. The next day I turned the heat to low for an hour to warm it back up before it went to the keep warm setting. We had a satisfying and delicious soup that fortified Joe between his plowing and snow blowing sessions in the blizzard of 2016.
Smoky Bacon and Lentil Soup
- 8oz smoky slab or thick cut bacon
- 6c chopped yellow onion
- 1c chopped carrots
- 1½ quarts of low sodium chicken broth or chicken stock
- 1¼c brown lentils
- 1c canned diced tomatoes (I used a variety with green chilies)
- 1T tomato paste
- 1T smoked paprika
- 1t ground black pepper
- Cut the bacon into medium dice. Fry in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp, about 7-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the slow cooker insert. Leave the bacon fat in the skillet.
- Add the carrots and onion to the skillet and cook until the onions are translucent, 4-5 minutes. Scrape the onion and carrots into the slow cooker.
- Stir in the broth, lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste, smoked paprika and pepper.
- Cover and cook on low for 7 hours or high for 3 hours.