Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Night Lentil Soup

The air is turning crisp up in these parts and that calls for soup. Quick cooking lentils are just the thing for busy Mondays.
I started with a recipe by Melissa Clark, writer of The New York Time's " A Good Appetite" column. It seemed simple enough, I had a few other chores going and I was just going to follow a simple recipe and make sure dinner was on the table relatively early. I'm not sure where it is I go astray. Dutifully following along suddenly my mind started to wander to the tube of harissa, a North African chili sauce of which I am absurdly fond, in the fridge. Once I'd gone in that direction the simple pot of soup called out for warm spices -- saffron, cinnamon, ginger, coriander. My adapted version was just the right dish for an evening turned cold. Try it at home.

Monday Night Lentil Soup

4 TB olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large shallots, chopped (I could have used two onions but I didn't have another)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB tomato paste
1 1/2 TB (or to taste) harissa
salt (about 3/4 tsp kosher salt) and pepper to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 quarts chicken broth
2 cups red lentils
3 carrots, peeled and diced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat until hot and just shimmering.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, harissa, and all of the spices (except the saffron threads). Let cook about 2 minutes longer. Add the broth, 2 cups of water, lentils, carrots and saffron threads. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 30 minutes until lentils are soft. Taste and add salt if needed. If desired, purée half the soup with an immersion or countertop blender for a slightly thicker soup with smoother texture (don't go too smooth). Return the soup to the pot, reheat slowly and stir in the lemon juice and 12 of the chopped cilantro, reserve the rest or garnish.

If we weren't in the midst of "clean eating" challenge at home I might have drizzled the top of the soup with olive oil or better yet fried up some garlicky croutons but even on it's own this simple soup got no complaints.

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