March 5, 2010
I’m considering renaming this blog ‘for the love of lentils’ or ‘the sentimental lentil’. Have you caught on to my mild obsession with this legume?
The past few sunny days we’ve been enjoying suggest that Spring weather might actually make an appearance before May (details on the exact date and time are forthcoming; Mother Nature is all about the element of surprise this year). But, alas, Winter still reigns which means soup is still on the menu. You won’t hear me complaining, especially when it comes to this red lentil soup. Kyle and I used to enjoy something very similar at a tiny Middle Eastern restaurant in Chicago. It was always served before the main course in a small white bowl with a generous wedge of lemon. While all of the food was authentic and fantastic, the soup won me over every time. Before finishing school and moving back to Cleveland, we asked The Nile’s ever gracious owner about the secret to his soup. He claimed there was really no exact recipe (which I took to mean he wasn’t disclosing the family secret), just a sauté of aromatics blended with stock, red lentils, turmeric and lemon (if my memory serves me correct). While this version isn’t The Nile’s, it’s pretty close and takes me back to my favorite college days.
Unlike their brown, black and green siblings, red lentils become tender in about ten short minutes, making them a shoo-in for weekday dinners. This soup is thick and hearty and ready in under 30 minutes. A simple salad and some pita bread complete the meal.
I don’t know what I love more. How quickly this soup comes together or its gorgeous yellow color.
Red Lentil Soup(Inspired by The Nile; Adapted liberally from Cooking Light)
- 1 T olive oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 very large onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges for garnish
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook for 30 seconds or until toasted and fragrant. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until onion is soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the turmeric and cook for 30 seconds.
To the pot add 4 cups of stock, red lentils, sugar, salt, and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until lentils are very tender.
Remove from heat and cool slightly. Puree using a blender or immersion blender. You may want to add a bit of water or more broth here (I usually add between 1/2 – 1 cup) if it becomes too thick. Heat through over low heat, if necessary. Stir in lemon juice and check for seasonings. To serve, drizzle over a little olive oil and garnish with additional lemon wedges, if desired.