Writer and photographer Monica Longenbaker

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n countries like Italy and Hungary, it is customary to ring in the new year with a bowl of lentils as a symbol of luck and prosperity. The nutrient-dense legumes are rich in fiber, protein, folate, iron and zinc. With chillier weather upon us, a steaming bowl of Lentil Soup is both comforting and nourishing, especially when accompanied by a generous dusting of Parmesan cheese and a hunk of warm, crusty bread.

Lentil Soup
Yield: 8-10 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onions, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup white wine (optional)
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 cups green or brown lentils, drained and rinsed
2½ quarts chicken stock, low sodium
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.

Deglaze with white wine (optional) and cook for 2-3 minutes until the alcohol burns off. Add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, lentils and chicken stock.

Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat to low. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for one hour until the lentils are tender.

At the last minute, add the red wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the hot soup into individual serving bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese.