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Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup

While staring at 2 big jars of quinoa and red lentils in my cabinet, I wondered if there existed a recipe for a healthy and hearty soup that combined them both?  The best part of this vegetable soup recipes like this is that a big batch of it makes for days of healthy lunch meals.


Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup




It turns out that both lentils and quinoa are used in a classic Peruvian soup, menestra de lentajes, that may also include ginger, coconut milk or bacon.  I decided to go a little diffrent direction and leave out the heavy ingredients such as the milk and the meat.  By bringing in more vegetables like red pepper and spinach, this makes it more of a traditional vegetable stew....or even a Peruvian vegetable chili.  You can definitely go in a number of directions here as the core of it is one of those simple, healthy soup recipes that you can tweak and make your own.

There may be a need to adjust the water depending on how "soupy" you like your soup as the quinoa and lentils can definitely take on a lot of fluid on their own.  I've chosen red lentils here as they tend to soften and integrate better into a soup than green lentils; and the quinoa gives a great chewiness.  Those of you that are focused on pure vegetarian cooking will want to sub in your favorite vegetable stock rather than the chicken stock.

Additionally, some of the ingredients might be a bit challenging to acquire depending on where you live.  Both the achiote paste and aji amarillo paste came from a local Chicago market that caters to Latino shoppers and may not be in most supermarkets.  In this case, your favorite hot sauce could easily be substituted for the aji paste.


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Red Lentil and Quinoa Soup Recipe
Healthy and Delicious can co-exist in this hearty vegetable soup
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-6 cups
Ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup Celery (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup Carrot (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup Red Bell Pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes (rinsed)
  • 4 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 4 cups Flavorful Stock
  • 4 cups Water
  • 1 cup Red Lentils
  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • 1 cup Chopped Spinach
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Achiote Paste
  • 1 teaspoon Yellow Aji Pepper (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Cilantro
Instructions
  1. In a large stockpot, cook the onion, celery, carrot and red pepper in the olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes until clear and softened
  2. Boil 1 cup of the water and use it to dissolve the achiote paste, aji paste & the tomato paste. Both the tomato and achiote pastes are notorious for clumping in your soup if they aren't thoroughly dissolved before introducing.
  3. Add this mixture, along with the remaining water, stock, tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro to the pot
  4. Bring this to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the lentils, quinoa, spinach and bay leaves
  5. Cook for 1 hour, or until the lentils and quinoa are cooked thoroughly
  6. Remove the bay leaves, serve into bowls and garnish with the remaining cilantro