You can make this soup, of course, any time of year, but it’s especially nice in the waning days of summer and early fall, when there are still good peppers and zucchini at the farmers market, but there’s also a chill in the air that makes soup sound good.
Adding sesame oil to lentil soup is a trick I learned from my friend and former café co-worker Kate. It doesn’t give the soup an Asian twist so much as just a wonderful depth of flavor.
Serves 6 to 8
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press or minced
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, or more to taste
- 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 8 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cups lentils
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 crookneck squash or yellow zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram (see note), divided
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bell peppers and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and cayenne and cook, stirring occasion¬ally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the broth, lentils, and soy sauce. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes.
Add the squash, zucchini, 1 teaspoon of the marjoram, and 1 teaspoon of the thyme. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the lentils and vegetables are tender, 5 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the sesame oil and additional salt to taste. Serve garnished with the remaining 1 teaspoon of marjoram and remaining 1 teaspoon of thyme.
NOTE Fresh marjoram is available in the produce section of many supermarkets. If you can’t find it, substitute equal parts fresh oregano and fresh sage.