Ballerina and health coach Sarah Lane shares her Spanish-influenced sweet and salty Lentil Soup

When Sarah Lane first started visiting her mother-in-law in Madrid, she was surprised by how often lentil soup appeared in her cooking rotation. Lane (an American Ballet Theater principal until 2020) and her husband, Luis Ribagorda (a current ABT corps de ballet member), usually scheduled their trips after a heavy performance season. “I realized how my body reacted to all of the vitamins and minerals that I was so deficient in when I got there,” says Lane. “The lentils’ iron and magnesium just gave me life.”

Over the years, Lane created this spin on her mother-in-law’s recipe, adding apple for a sweet twist, rosemary to bring out the warm, wintery flavors and fennel to aid digestion. Lane’s approach to cooking is closely paired with her interest in nutrition. Since leaving ABT she’s had the chance to turn that passion into a profession. In addition to guesting with companies worldwide, during the pandemic Lane received her nutrition health coach certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and now works regularly with other dancers. “I want to be someone who can support dancers to prioritize their health,” she says.

Keeping Perfectionism Out of the Kitchen

When Lane started cooking, she was inspired by her mother-in-law. “She puts so much love and work into preparing meals, and it brings people together,” says Lane. That approach helped her to let go of striving to be perfect, and, instead, she could play around in the kitchen. I had enough perfectionism in my ballet work. Cooking has become more intuitive and artistic. I’m not afraid of making a bad dish or making mistakes. I think trial and error is the best way to learn.” Although, Lane adds, laughing, “my poor husband has to eat it!”

Instant Pot Enthusiast

Lane often turns to her Instant Pot when making her lentil soup. “You can do all of the sautéing in there, then turn it on and it’s done quickly,” she says, “and you have limited dishes to wash.” She recommends dancers invest in a multi-cooker as a way to quickly prepare nutritious food. “We just have limited time and energy to be standing in the kitchen after long rehearsal days,” she says. Less time in the kitchen, more time with your feet up!

Sarah Lane. Courtesy Lane.

Ingredients

  • 1–2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 2 apples, diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh or dried rosemary and/or thyme (“Dancers don’t always have a lot of time to grocery-shop regularly, so dried works just as well,” says Lane.)
  • 1 tbsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 lb red or brown lentils, rinsed in cold water and checked for debris (“Green or yellow will work too, but I find that the darker lentils go really well with the apple.”)
  • 48 oz vegetable broth
  • 1–2 tbsps red wine vinegar (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the onion, fennel, apples, garlic and ginger, and sauté over medium heat until slightly softened (about 10 minutes).
  3. Toss in the rosemary and/or thyme as well as 1 tablespoon of salt, and stir.
  4. Add the lentils and the vegetable broth and bring to a gentle boil. Partially cover with a lid and simmer until soft (about 25-30 minutes). Add more salt to taste.
  5. When serving, drizzle each bowl with a spoonful or two of red wine vinegar for tartness, if desired. To turn the soup into a complete source of protein, pair with a whole grain or a piece of whole grain toast. “Lentils are an excellent source of protein, especially for vegetarians, but they don’t have all of the essential amino acids our bodies require,” says Lane.
Lane’s lentil soup. Courtesy Lane.

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