This is one of the premier entries in my cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America: Nuyorican and Bodega Recipes ( Running Press). Sopa de Lentejas, or lentil soup, is an old family favorite. Back on the block, our preference was for red lentils. But green lentil can be just as good. Your choice. When preparing this soup, the mind boggles with what you can mix in. Celery, carrots and mushrooms are among the most common vegetables added to the pot. Smoked ham or ham hocks are other ingredients popular in this stew. In some recipes rice is mixed in with the broth. Depending on amount of liquid and cooking time, you can make it as thin or as thick as you like. Whichever way you make it, with some crusty bread and a hearty red wine, this dish can’t be beat.
Our version is quite simple: lentils, chorizo and potatoes. We include tomato sauce for added flavor and color. Some cooks prefer to adjust their seasoning with salt and pepper added after the soup is done. It’s a matter of personal taste. However you season it, the soup should be served piping hot, with or without croutons, Back in the apartment in Harlem, we never added croutons.
Also note that you can double the quantity of ingredients to make 6-8 servings.
1 cup red lentils (or green)
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 cups chicken broth
3 small potatoes (or 2 medium), washed and quartered
2 chorizo sausages, casings removed and sliced into ½-inch rounds
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
½ can tomato sauce
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Rinse lentils under cold running water (best using a fine strainer). Set aside.
- Heat oil in a kettle or Dutch oven. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Stir-fry until tender but not browned.
- Stir in lentils. Add broth and remaining ingredients. Mix well and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until tender but not mushy (about ½ hour).
- Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings.