I always keep a number of beans and lentils around the house as an inexpensive source of protein and an invaluable addition to my gluten-free larder. Dried beans can take several hours to cook, making them unlikely candidates for a last-minute dinner, but lentils are another story.
Most lentils cook quickly, usually in about 30 minutes. Brown or green lentils seem to be most commonly available, and they are perfect for soups. I adore black “beluga” lentils and French green lentils (Vertes du Puy), which are more likely found in specialty markets. These varieties hold their shape well and have a firm, meaty bite, making them perfect for lentil salads. I love using red lentils, too, but keep in mind they disintegrate into a puree fairly quickly. They’re especially tasty in Indian dal recipes.
While I often cook a big pot of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) from their dried state, this soup is a perfect place to use canned beans. They’ll benefit from a few minutes of simmering to give the spices time to do their job. Enjoy the soup right away, or make it a day ahead to let the flavors infuse.