1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot stick, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 cup red lentils (7 ounces), picked over and rinsed
3 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
Accompaniment: lemon wedges
Cook onion in oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.
Add garlic, cumin, bay leaf, and thyme and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add lentils, broth, water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until lentils are very soft and falling apart, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig, then purée 2 cups of mixture in blender (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pan.
Season with salt.
Makes 4 to 6 servings (makes 6 cups)