1 pound of lentils
half pound mushrooms
half pound carrots
half an onion
tablespoon of minced garlic
teaspoon of oregano
teaspoon of basil
one 28 ounce can whole tomatoes
two tablespoons vinegar (red wine vinegar ideal, any other kind can work)
Put the lentils in a colander and rinse them with water, turning them over a bunch looking for anything that turns out to be a little rock or a little stick.
Cut the mushrooms in slices.
Peel the carrots and cut them in slices.
Peel the onion and cut it up pretty small.
Dump the tomatoes and their liquid into a bowl and pull each one apart with your fingers into several pieces.
Put the lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf, basil, and oregano in your soup pot.
Put a frying pan on the stove over medium heat.
When you can feel warmth holding your hand four inches above the surface, add just enough oil to cover the bottom.
When the oil shimmers a little, add the carrots, and stir and flip frequently. When they've all changed color a bit, dump them on top of the lentils. (Could take five minutes)
Add a little more oil to the frying pan, add the onions, and a gain stir and flip frequently. Watching for them to be translucent. (Could take five minutes)
Add the garlic to the onions and stir and flip constantly until the smell is strong and a bunch of the garlic bits are brown. (Could take less than a minute) Flip the garlic and onions into the soup pot.
Add a little more oil to to the frying pan, and add mushrooms. Stir and flip constantly until all the mushrooms are partly brown. For this one, you may decide you need to add a second bit of oil, but don't add lots: mushrooms like to drink it all but don't need as much as they want. (Could take two minutes.) Flip them into the soup pot.
If the pan has nice brown stuff on it, add a cup of water, and then push your spatula along the bottom to get the brown stuff to melt into the water. Add the water to the soup pot.
Add seven cups of water to the pot.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.
Simmer for an hour.
Add the vinegar.
Add some salt and pepper, stir well and decide whether to add more.
Celery, treated like the carrots, makes many people happy. I don't care for the texture of cooked celery, but you might.
Frozen corn, canned corn, or fresh spinach could be added 50 minutes or so into the cooking. Thin sliced kale might be good too.
Everything except the lentils is about flavor. If you're missing something that's on the list, you can use alternate stuff: parsley, thyme, red wine, lemon, chicken stock, chicken bouillion can all contribute. Bacon or ham or sausage would make something different but lovely.
Grated cheese makes it better, though less thrifty.