Fresh taste from the past

It was quite a heady experience when I opened the Bread Shop in Chicago in 1971. There was no other vegetarian business in town yet, so creating a whole grain bakery with an adjacent vegetarian grocery store — with my borrowed $1,000 — was beyond exhilarating. It was my first step toward saving our planet.

I remember Paul Obis, one of my customers, walking into the back area one day, where I was busy chopping away at something or other. He handed me a double-sided typed sheet of paper and informed me that it was a copy of his new magazine, Vegetarian Times. I loved it and read it to this day.

The magazine celebrated its 400th issue this year, and Obis told me that he's quite proud that it has survived and prospered all these years.

Obis recently lent me all of his back issues of the magazine and, while browsing through them, I came across this simple and delicious soup from February 1986.

Lentil and noodle soup

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Makes: 8 cups

Note: Adapted from a recipe by cookbook author Habeeb Salloum that appeared in Vegetarian Times magazine. The original recipe calls for brown lentils, which I don't remember ever seeing in the 1980s. I think that what we now call green lentils were back then referred to as brown.


8 cups water
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup green lentils, sorted, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces whole wheat vermicelli, capellini or spaghetti, broken into fourths
¼ cup cilantro chopped

1. Place the water, salt, pepper and lentils in a saucepan; heat to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to a simmer; cook until the lentils are tender but still intact and slightly firm, 30 minutes.

2. Place the oil, onions and garlic in a skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are slightly browned, about 12 minutes. Add mixture to the soup pot after lentils have cooked 30 minutes. Stir in the pasta; bring to a boil. Lower the heat; simmer until the pasta and lentils are done, 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro before serving.

Nutrition information:
Per serving: 148 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 23 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 704 mg sodium, 7 g fiber.

Kay Stepkin is a vegetarian cooking instructor and former owner of a vegetarian restaurant/whole-grain bakery. Email her at