Lentils shine in this easy-to-prepare hearty soup

Jan 16 2012 - 4:42pm

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PATRICK FARRELL/Miami Herald
Ham and Lentil Soup, served with Garlic Toast, can make a nourishing meal.
PATRICK FARRELL/Miami Herald
Ham and Lentil Soup, served with Garlic Toast, can make a nourishing meal.

This thick and hearty soup made with ham, lentils and tomatoes takes only 30 minutes to make and is a great way to brighten up a winter evening. It's a whole meal in one bowl.

I find that my family, no matter what the weather, loves a bowl of soup. It warms them up and gets them chatting around the table. Soups and casseroles are great family fare, but usually take too long to make for a midweek meal. This quick meal fits the bill.

This is the type of meal that you can improvise when you haven't been to the supermarket. Chicken broth, canned tomatoes and canned beans are staples in my pantry. Also, I normally have onions, celery and carrots in the refrigerator.

If you don't have basil, leave it out and add any fresh greens you have in the refrigerator.

This meal contains 558 calories per serving with 18 percent of calories from fat.

Helpful hints:

* Canned whole tomatoes can be used instead of diced. Break them up with the side of a spoon as they go into the saucepan.

* Toast can be made in a toaster oven or under the broiler.

Ham and Lentil Soup

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 cup frozen chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 pound honey smoked ham, cut into 1 thick slice and then 1-inch pieces

2 cups low-sodium canned diced tomatoes

1 1/2-cups water

3/4 cup dried lentils

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 2 minutes. Add garlic and ham. Saute 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water. Bring to a rolling boil and slowly add the lentils so that the water continues to boil. Cover with a lid and boil gently, 20 minutes. Add the cumin and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in basil. Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: 447 calories (11 percent from fat), 5.3 grams fat (1.2 grams saturated, 3.1 grams monounsaturated), 12 milligrams cholesterol, 32.4 grams protein, 66 grams carbohydrates, 26.2 grams fiber, 551 milligrams sodium.

Garlic Country Toast

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 large slices whole-grain country bread

1 garlic clove, cut in half

Spread oil over bread and rub cut edge of garlic on top. Place under a broiler or in a toaster oven for several minutes or until bread is golden. Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: 111 calories (46 percent from fat), 5.6 grams fat (0.9 gram saturated, 3.5 grams monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 3.6 grams protein, 11.8 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 110 milligrams sodium.

Linda Gassenheimer is the author of 14 cookbooks including her newest, "The Flavors of the Florida Keys" (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010).

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