I hope you’re all having a wonderful week. Another record blizzard slammed into St. Paul, MN on Monday, and we’re still digging out. The majority of the residents are looking forward to the arrival of Spring. To be honest, I’m not opposed to winter lingering a little longer. I enjoy snuggling into my warm house without feeling obligated to “go outdoors” and “do anything.” It’s not that I don’t love being outside; I’m simply not ready to say goodbye to my favorite Winter dishes quite yet. This leads well into the topic of today’s post. My yard is blanketed with a foot and a half of snow, which begs for some warm comfort food.
This lentil soup challenges stereotypes about what lentil soup can be. It’s based on mercimek corbasi, a Turkish lentil soup that’s light, spicy, and has a bright red hue (no murky brown here): a revelatory meal that takes less than an hour to prepare. Cooking is simple and painless. To deepen the taste, sauté onion and garlic in oil, then add tomato paste, cumin, and chile powder and simmer for a few minutes more. Simmer for 30 minutes with broth, water, red lentils (which cook faster than green or black lentils), and sliced carrot. Half of the mixture should be puréed and returned to the saucepan for a soup that is both lumpy and smooth. A squirt of lemon juice gives a bright accent to balance out the cumin and chile notes.
This soup is from Melissa Clark’s book “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.” My in-laws surprised me with a copy of this great new cookbook by the prolific (29 cookbooks! ), extremely brilliant New York Times food columnist. It’s not only full of delicious recipes, but it’s also entertaining to read because of the author’s personal tales.
To be honest, I don’t generally follow soup recipes. I enjoy imagining taste combinations and going over various components in my thoughts. Soup is the ideal dish to experiment with. To be honest, I’m not sure what prompted me to choose this lentil soup recipe. Several other recipes leaped out to me on my first perusal of the new cookbook, but for some reason, I prepared this soup. Wow! The texture is enhanced by the tiny, somewhat firm lentils. The hints of chili pepper and cumin combine to create a slightly nuanced flavor profile– savory/smoky, I suppose. There’s also the lemon. This is the most important element since the acidity it adds to the soup truly makes it stand out. Before serving, I even added the lemon zest and a pinch of cayenne pepper. This soup, like most others, goes great with a slice of crusty bread. Enjoy!
Soup with Red Lentils and Lemon
- 4 tbsp olive oil, plus a little more excellent oil for drizzling
- 2 big sliced onions
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tbsp cumin powder
- a half teaspoon of kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- a pinch of powdered chili powder or cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 cups red lentils 2 quarts chicken or veggie broth
- 2 big peeled and sliced carrots
- 1 lemon’s juice, or more to taste
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, mint, or parsley (I used cilantro and loved it!)
Heat the oil in a big saucepan over high heat until it is hot and shimmering. Sauté the onions and garlic for 4 minutes, or until golden. Sauté for another 2 minutes after adding the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and chili powder or cayenne. Combine the broth, 2 cups water, lentils, and carrots in a large mixing bowl. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to medium-low heat by partially covering the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. If required, season with additional salt. Puree half of the soup in an immersion blender, a conventional blender, or a food processor (it should be somewhat chunky, not smooth). If necessary, reheat the soup before adding the lemon juice and cilantro, mint, or parsley. Serve the soup with a drizzle of excellent olive oil and a small dusting of chile powder or cayenne, if preferred.
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