Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cook with what ya' got

Last Saturday was a beautiful warm day. After squinting at the unfamiliar yellowish blob that turned out to be the sun (!!) we took the kids for a nice long walk downtown and then came home and celebrated by making this sunny soup:
Robot-approved red lentil soup.

There are a couple of things that are great about this soup:
  1. It takes hardly any ingredients and almost all are shelf stable so even if you haven't been shopping in weeks you probably have everything to make it.
  2. It is so easy you can make it while half asleep.
  3. Robots (and robot-loving 2 year olds) like it!
Unlike the muddy tasting and muddy colored lentil soup that I grew up with, made with brown lentils, this is a Middle Eastern style lentil soup made with red lentils which turn a beautiful deep mustard shade when cooked. They do not hold their shape (thus no need to puree hot soup which is a pain in the ass) and the flavor is punched up with cumin, garlic and lemon. If you are lucky enough to have experienced the fantastic Middle Eastern restaurants in the area (see, there are some pluses to living in the dark for 3 months of the year!), you will probably have had this soup.

It is great when served with other Middle Eastern stuff like hummus, baba ganoush, pita and a chopped romaine, tomato and cucumber salad dressed with lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper and ground sumac (if you don't live near a Mid-East market where you can get bags of sumac really cheap, you can mail order it from Penzeys.)

Easy Middle Eastern Style Red Lentil Soup

1 medium yellow onion chopped
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 T olive oil
1 carrot, grated (optional)
1 and 1/2 C red lentils (NOT brown)
7 C water
1 t salt
fresh ground pepper
1 T ground cumin
**Juice of 1-2 lemons (depending on the intensity of your sour-pleasure center)

In a big pot, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is soft. Add the lentils, carrot, water, salt, pepper and cumin and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for at least 40 minutes (more is fine--if you are going to simmer for a LONG time then put a lid on the pot so all the water doesn't evaporate). Just before serving add half the lemon juice (at least one lemon's worth) and then taste to see if you want any more lemon juice, salt or pepper.

**If you don't have any fresh lemons in the house, bottled lemon juice will suffice.

4 comments:

Mary Jean Babic said...

Inquiring minds want to know:

1) Whatever became of the sweater that was supposed to be for you and then was maybe going to become your sister's Christmas present, and

2) Have you tackled any of the recipes in the January Gourmet that caught your eye? I made the carrot-ginger salad dressing (lovely) and the chicken cacciatore (yummy and nostalgia-inducing).

Kate said...

Heh heh (guilty laugh...) I kept the sweater.... Hey maybe I'll wear it today!

I also made the carrot-ginger salad dressing on a day that I was craving Japanese food. I put it on super thin shredded cabbage and carrots.

And thanks for the reminder to get back to that magazine and cook some more of the recipes!

RedInTheRain said...

I have been looking for this recipe for years now. I had gone to a Middle Eastern resterant called Cedarland and they served this lentil soup with their meals.

Edward Vielmetti said...

Making this soup right now, Kate - thanks for writing up the recipe!