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You've got to love lentils. Well, you don't have to, but you should. They're nutritious, delicious and quick to cook. They're also inexpensive and easy to find, and they pair beautifully with almost anything. Lentils really do have it all.

When shopping for lentils, you may find you have a few choices. Green and brown are most common, but you will often see red lentils, too. Red lentils have a milder flavor than the green and brown varieties and tend to break down more quickly during the cooking process.

Lamb, pork, chicken and even seafood can be the perfect partner for these versatile legumes. One of my favorite ways to serve them is with a piece of seared salmon. The earthiness of the lentils lends enough flavor to be interesting, without overpowering the salmon.

Of course, lentils are so high in protein that they don't need additional help, which is why they are such a popular option in vegetarian dishes. But we're going to add some anyway for this week's recipe, which explores a classic pairing — lentils and sausage.

Dinner doesn't get much easier than this dish, and while I am giving you a recipe, you should absolutely feel free to make it your own.

My version starts with onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Don't like celery? Leave it out. Don't have carrots? You'll be fine. Wait! What are you going to do with that jalapeño that's been hanging out in the vegetable crisper? Chop it up and toss it in with the onions. Why not?

This recipe includes a generous amount of andouille. While this pork sausage originated in France, here in the United States we think of it more as Cajun fare. Highly seasoned and smoked, andouille has a nice little kick of cayenne, which infuses the lentils.

If you don't like it hot, or you have a chunk of kielbasa on hand — or a few links of Spanish chorizo or even some leftover smoked brats — go ahead and use them. It's going to be good. I promise.

Lentil and Andouille Soup

Serves 4.

While you can use any kind of sausage in this versatile soup, the heat and smokiness of andouille adds an extra dimension of flavor. Like many soups of this kind, it's even better the next day. It will continue to thicken, so you may want to add a little more broth or water, or just enjoy it as a stew. From Meredith Deeds.

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 12 oz. andouille sausage, cut in half lengthwise and then 1/4-in. slices crosswise

• 1 large onion, chopped

• 2 medium celery stalks, chopped

• 2 medium carrots, chopped

• 3 tbsp. tomato paste

• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 1/3 c. brown or green lentils

• 4 c. homemade or low-sodium chicken broth

• 2 c. water

• 3 sprigs of thyme

• 1 bay leaf

• 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

• 2 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley


In a 4-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the sausage, onion, celery and carrots to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture turns a rusty color. Add the lentils, chicken broth, water, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are tender but not falling apart, 20 to 45 minutes (depending on what kind of lentils you're using).

Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf and stir in the vinegar and parsley. Taste and reseason with more salt, pepper and/or vinegar, if necessary, before serving.

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at Follow her on Instagram ­at @meredithdeeds.