When I was a little girl I had a hard time eating lentils. Just the sight of a dark soup in front of me, with a piece of garlic swimming in, was enough to turn me off. Often we say that we don’t like certain foods, but growing up I realized that this is simply wrong. We don’t like the way some foods are cooked. At home, mom prepared the lentils the way I just described, the ” Athenian way”.
I never thought that the addition of a simple ingredient would transform the awful soup to a tasty comfort meal. That ingredient is fresh tomato sauce.
You need to find small brown lentils. Like all legumes the lentils must be from a fresh crop, otherwise you might boil them for hours and still have stones in your pot. French lentils are often found in American supermarkets and Umbrian lentils in some specialty stores. In Greece great lentil varieties come from the northwest.
Place 8 ripe roma tomatoes (pomodori) in boiling water for one minute. Remove and place in cold water. They peel easily now. Chop them in small pieces.
Chop a medium white onion into very small pieces. In a medium pot heat a spoonful of extra virgin olive oil and saute’ the onion until it softens.
Add three (3) cups of lentils in the same pot and stir a couple of times. Add two cups of chicken stock and the chopped tomatoes. Add two bay leaves, two pieces of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the lentils for about half hour. Good lentils should be tender by now. If not you need to add some liquid (hot water is fine at this point) and simmer more.
The lentils should look like a thick soup, almost like chilli. Add salt to adjust the taste and there you have it.
Lentils the Greek Islands way. Remove the bay leaves and enjoy with a fresh baguette.
A sweeter variety has a finely sliced carrot in the soup.
A very popular side dish for the lentils is some smoked herring or oil cured mackerel. A glass of Greek retsina or even a fresh red wine such as Beaujolais Nouveau (coming soon to a liquor store near you) will go nice with your lentils.