If you’re eating from the new Crossroads cookbook by acclaimed chef Tal Ronnen, you’re eating some of the best, most inventive, freshest and satisfying vegan food on the planet. Hearty French lentils and crispy kale team up to provide one of the heartiest vegan spoonfuls of the season.
I love this homey soup for its many layers of flavor and texture: the earthiness of the lentils, the sweetness of the onions and carrots, and the crunch of crispy kale. Lentils love to absorb other flavors, making them the ultimate base for a soup. This one is made with French green lentils (Puy), which hold their shape and thicken the soup without turning it into sludge, the fate of too many lentil soups.
- 3 tablespoons grape-seed oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1/2 fennel bulb, cored and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 turnip, peeled and diced
- 1 Yukon gold potato, peeled and finely chopped
- 8 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1/4 cups French green lentils (Puy), picked over and rinsed
- 1 kale leaf, tough center rib removed, leaf hand-torn
- 4 cups filtered water
- 2 celery stalks, quartered
- 2 fennel bulbs, coarsely chopped
- 2 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise and washed
- 2 carrots, halved
- 1 onion, halved
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 12 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- About 1 gallon cold filtered water
- 1 bunch kale, rinsed and dried well
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Nutritional yeast Flakes (see note)
- flaked sea salt such as Maldon
For the vegetable stock
Combine the vegetables, bay leaves, peppercorns, herb sprigs, and salt in a large stockpot and add enough cold filtered water to cover. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the stock steep and settle for 10 minutes.
Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into another pot; discard the solids. Place the pot in a sink full of ice water and stir to cool the stock down quickly. The stock can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month.
For the crispy kale
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Remove the tough center ribs of the kale. Tear the leaves into large bite-size pieces. You should have about 8 cups leaves.
Toss the leaves with the oil and spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing the kale every 10 minutes as it begins to shrink, until crisp on the edges and slightly browned.
Sprinkle the crispy kale with nutritional yeast flakes and salt while hot. The kale keeps for up to 3 days, uncovered, at room temperature.
Note: Nutritional yeast may not sound like the most appetizing ingredient, but it has a cheesy, nutty, savory quality that gives any dish extra oomph. Just a tablespoon or two adds a creamy, salty richness to dips, soups, and sauces. Look for nutritional yeast flakes in the supplement section of the market or health food store. Be sure to select flakes instead of granules, which will deliver a bit of texture to whatever you add them to.
For the soup
Put a soup pot over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, celery, carrot, and fennel and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the turnip, potato, thyme, and bay leaves, season with salt, black pepper, and the red pepper flakes, and turn the vegetables over with a wooden spoon to coat. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the lentils and torn kale. Pour in the stock and water and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add more water as necessary if the soup becomes too thick. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
Ladle into soup bowls and scatter the crispy kale on top.