Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until golden. Add the garlic and cumin and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the lentils, bay leaf, and water to the pan and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat, then add the canned tomatoes and crushed red pepper (if using), and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
Add artichokes, salt, and pepper to taste, heat through.