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It's Raining: American Lemony Yellow Lentil Soup Recipe

“It never rains in Southern California (or Tel Aviv). It pours.” Albert Hammond

It’s raining in Tel Aviv. Hard. Thunder and lightning hard. Shaking the earth and a’ rattlin’ the trees sort of hard. I’ve cancelled my gym class cause there ain’t no way in hell I’m walking over there in this torrential downpour. The wi-fi is down, as happens on the semi-regular here when the weather is bad. (But the electricity is still on-hurray!). I’m supposed to be studying for the first of many exams for passage into the Israeli Bar. Instead I’m making lentil soup and listening to the rain.

All of which is good new for you. You get a delicious recipe out of it. This one is adapted from a New York Times' red lentil soup. (Note: I love the NY Times in general, but their recipe box site and app are excellent). I’ve substituted yellow lentils for red (cause that’s what they had at the store) and majorly upped the lemon quotient, including roughly hand-grated lemon zest. You can grate yours the normal way. I just don’t have a lemon grater yet.

American Lemony Yellow Lentil Soup


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (you can use pre-minced, but fresh has a more intense flavor)

  • 1/3 cup tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 bay leaf

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Pinch of ground chile powder or cayenne, more to taste

  • 1 quart "chicken" AKA no-chicken broth or vegetable broth

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 cup yellow lentils

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced

  • Juice of 1 and 1/2 lemon plus one teaspoon lemon zest.

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.

  2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

  3. Meanwhile in separate container heat the broth or make from scratch if you're a purist, or defrost if you've already made.

  4. Add broth, 2 cups water, bay leaf, lentils and carrot, the lemon zest, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

  5. Wait till soup partially cools, then remove bay leaf if you can find it. Stir in remaining lemon juice and cilantro.

  6. When ready to serve, add a few sprigs fresh cilantro if you wish. Tastes delish with some crusty whole grain bread.

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