Remember paprika when we were growing up? (Well, that’s if you’re my age..somewhere past 39…and if you grew up around here) It was orange, had pretty much no flavor and made a rare appearance on devilled eggs? Well, paprika has grown up and diversified into a spice that will make you stand up and take notice. I won’t go into all the different types of it here, but if you have access to a world spice store, you’ll see what I mean. The paprika I use here and my personal favorite is the Spanish sweet paprika, el Rey de la Vera. The paprika makes this dish. You won’t see it, like you did on those devilled eggs mom made, but you will definitely taste it.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma.
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 carrots, diced-about 1 cup
1-2 celery stalks, diced-about 1 cup
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp smoky Spanish paprika
1/4 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 slices bacon
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
creme fraiche, sour cream or Greek style yogurt for garnish
Heat Dutch oven or 5 quart stock pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and let warm, then add onion, celery and carrot. Let soften, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes. Then add garlic, tomato paste and paprika. Turn heat down to medium-low, cover and cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until everything is softened and combined. Raise heat to medium-high and add lentils. Stir to coat lentils with vegetable mixture, then add tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until lentils are tender and falling apart, about 15-20 minutes.
While lentils are cooking, slice bacon into 1/4 inch rectangles or lardons and cook in a saute pan over medium-high heat until browned, but still slightly tender. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
When lentils are done, use a hand held immersion blender to slightly puree soup or transfer about half of soup to food processor, puree and return to pot. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a dollop of creme fraiche, sour cream or Greek style yogurt and some bacon.