You will need:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small to medium yellow or red onion, chopped
1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut in ½-inch dice
Salt to taste
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
½ medium cabbage, cored and chopped
a handful of shitake mushrooms, brushed free of dirt and chopped
1 teaspoon each: thyme, oregano, cumin, coriander
½ pound lentils (about 1⅛ cups), picked over and rinsed
2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
2 cups cooked rice (white or brown)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan for serving
Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, and add the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just about tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, shitakes, and cabbage, along with another generous pinch of salt.
Cook, stirring, just until the garlic smells fragrant and the cabbage has begun to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add spices and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the lentils and water and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, season to taste with salt, about 2 teaspoons to begin with (you will probably add more), cover and simmer 1 hour, until the lentils are tender and the broth fragrant.
Add pepper to the soup and stir in rice, or just add rice to each bowl when you serve the soup. Taste. Is there enough salt? Garlic? Adjust seasonings. Stir in the parsley. Serve, topping each bowlful with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.