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The perfect mix of hearty and healthy in one bowl

Mario Batali
Tribune Content Agency

After a holiday season of indulgent meals, nothing satisfies my soul more than a bowl of warm, lemony lentil soup. Featured in “Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA” (Grand Central Life & Style 2016), this plant-based dish is the perfect intersection between hearty and healthy; and best of all, it can be made in one pot.

From a small area starting just north of Moscow, Idaho, stretching west into Washington, comes most of the U.S. lentil crop. Though the majority of lentils are exported, the ones that stick around should end up in a soup like this one. If you cook with these legumes often, you’re familiar with the colorful varieties. Take red and yellow lentils: They are absolutely delicious in Indian dal. Then there are brown lentils, my go-to for soups and stews because of their firm texture, which helps maintain their shape particularly well even over the long, slow heat that makes a soup so luxuriously delicious.

Once you’ve shopped for the fresh vegetables that go into my lemony lentil soup, this comforting meal comes together in under an hour. I start with a classic French mirepoix of diced carrots, onions and celery (the key to any great soup) and add garlic and rosemary for a magnificent aromatic base that will entice any unconvinced meat-lover into the kitchen. Finish this lentil supper with a leafy green, like Swiss chard, and a plentiful amount of lemon juice with zest for a killer tang.

To Mario-ify this dish, I might make some crostini out of old bread, toast them under the broiler, then rub them with raw garlic before floating them in the soup right as I serve it.

Mario Batali is the chef behind 25 restaurants.

Lemony Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

2 carrots, finely diced

2 stalks celery, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed

6 cups vegetable broth

12 ounces Swiss chard, (about 2 bunches), stems removed and pickled, leaves thinly shredded

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste, and saute for 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and add the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

Stir in chard leaves, and cook until they wilt. Add the lemon zest and juice, and season well with salt and black pepper. Serve hot. Serves 6 to 8

Per serving: 153 calories; 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 24 percent calories from fat); 22 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 578 mg sodium; 9 g protein; 4 g fiber.