I stayed home sick from work the other day, and, because it was freezing cold out, I decided to make myself a soup with whatever I had on hand. It turned out to be a bag of lentils, a can of beans, some cherry tomatoes and a block of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The soup was easy, filling and delicious -- plus I didn't have to leave my house to make it.
Try making this at home, then storing the lentil soup (pre-tomato addition) in the refrigerator or freezer for a quick, re-heated weeknight meal. You can also use this as a base for adding onions or other vegetables or fresh herbs.
Add the lentils to a saucepot and cover with enough broth or water by about 1 inch and cook over high heat. Add the bay leaf, spices and herbs and stir. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook for about 45-55 minutes. Check occasionally, stir and add more broth or water if it looks like it's absorbed and the lentils are still firm. You can cover at the end if you'd like to hurry the process up a little and steam the lentils.
About 20 minutes before the soup is ready, heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a foil-lined baking sheet, mix the pierced tomatoes with a pinch of the oregano and chile flakes, then season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are plump and have released some of their juices. (If the tomatoes are done before the soup, then turn the oven off and keep them warm in there, maybe opening the oven door a little at first).
10 minutes before the lentils have reached your desired level of softness, add in the beans. Adjust seasoning as needed and finish cooking.
When the soup is ready, divide between three bowls or save the leftovers in the fridge. Top each bowl with the tomatoes, drizzling some of the pan juices over the lentils. Top with the grated cheese and serve.