Photo: Lisa Romerein
Lentils, like other beans, are a good vehicle for the kind of strong flavorings we love. When cooking any bean soup, occasionally give it a stir to avoid burning the beans on the bottom.
Serves 8 to 10
2 large onions
11 cloves of garlic
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1 bunch fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried
1 gallon vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water
3 cups lentils, washed and picked over
6 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
2 ripe plantains, peeled, cut in half, and diced
3 medium carrots, peeled, cut into quarters lengthwise, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 bunches cilantro, chopped
Cut 1 onion into chunks and the other into dice. Mince 6 of the garlic cloves and keep the remaining 5 whole.
Place the onion chunks, whole garlic cloves, cinnamon sticks, and cloves in the center of a medium square of cheesecloth. Tie the ends together to form a package. Place the fresh thyme in another square of cheesecloth and tie the ends together to enclose.
Combine the stock and the spice and herb packages, or dried thyme, in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 30 minutes. Stir in the lentils and continue cooking until they are cooked through but still firm, 15 minutes. Strain the lentils, reserving the liquid and the thyme bundle.
Heat the olive oil or butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the diced onions until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the plantains, carrots, and salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the plantains are soft and golden, 15 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and allspice and cook about 5 minutes longer, being careful not to scorch the garlic.
Add the lentils, their reserved liquid, and the thyme bundle. Bring to a simmer and cook another 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and remove and discard the thyme bundle. Stir in half of the chopped cilantro. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro.