Red Lentil and Tomato Soup

It’s now peak tomato season and there is nothing like fresh homegrown tomatoes.  Of course, this is the time of year to eat them fresh, but if you want to change things up a bit, try Red Lentil and Tomato Soup.  It’s a nice filling soup with loads of flavor. The lentils are a great source of protein, fiber, vitamin B1, folate, and iron. For this recipe, I prefer using dried herbs and particularly Mediterranean oregano and Mediterranean basil.  It’s not necessary to use the Mediterranean oregano and basil, regular oregano and basil will work just fine. I love to triple or quadruple the recipe and freeze some for a rainy day.
4 tsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 ½ cups split red lentils
4 large tomatoes, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped*
48 oz (6 cups) chicken stock (or vegetable, if you prefer)
3 tsp salt (divided)
1 ½ tsp pepper (divided)
1 tsp  dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp + 2 tsp dried parsley
·      Heat oil in a large pot. Add chopped onions, celery, ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper. Stirring occasionally, cook until translucent.
·      Add lentils and cook for 1 minute
·      Add tomatoes, chicken stock,  dried herbs, and the remaining salt (2 ½ tsp) and pepper (1 tsp).
·      Bring to a boil.
·      Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes until the vegetable and lentils are cooked and tender. Stir occasionally.
·      Remove from heat and slightly cool. If you have an immersion blender, blend until smooth. If not, pour into a food processer or blender (in batches if necessary) and purée until smooth. I prefer my soup with a little bit of texture to it, but it’s all a matter of personal preference.
·      Return to the pan if you used a food processer or blender.
·      Reheat and serve
*Easy way to remove the skin from a tomato:
o   Bring a medium pot of water to boil.
o   Cut out each stem.
o   Cut an ‘X’ in the bottom of each tomato.
o   Place tomatoes in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes.
o   Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and immediately immerse them in a bowl of ice water.
o   Pull the skins from the tomatoes (they should come off easily).