Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Leafy and Lemony Lentil Soup

I love lentil soup. It's perfect in so many ways. It is a hearty and satisfying winter meal, something to get the Portland chill out of your bones. It is also protein rich, filling, and light, even though it has a thick, stew like consistency. I usually use the Hearty Lentil Soup recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone but last week I came across two different lentil soup recipes to try.

As some of you know, I am blissfully unemployed this week, leaving me lots of time to think about lentil soup, among other things. So after some careful consideration and a glance at my produce drawer, I decided to combine these two recipes. The base recipe is from an article in the NY Times food section, and the second is from 101Cookbooks, one of my favorite food blogs. I was drawn to the NY Times recipe because it uses red lentils and calls for lemon. The 101Cookbooks recipe didn't look all the impressive, honestly, except for the addition of dark, leafy green to the soup at the end. Hmmm...

So here is my hybrid soup recipe, with a few notes that I deem important. The resulting soup is lighter, oranger, and thinner than most lentil soup recipes. It also has a bit of zing at the end, due to the lemon and a pinch of cayenne. It's a nice change, but I do plan to post the old standby recipe at some point as well.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter*
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste*
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 quart stock, chicken or vegetable
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, diced
juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch kale or chard

In a large pot, heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute a few minutes until golden. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne, and saute a few minutes longer. Add stock, 2 cups water, lentils, and carrot. Bring to a simmer, cover partially, and simmer until lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse and roughly chop greens. You want bite size pieces rather than long ribbons that will hang off of your spoon and burn you as you try to eat your finished soup (trust me). Saute over medium heat in 1 tablespoon olive oil until greens start to wilt. Then cover and steam greens until tender. Remove from heat and squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon over greens. Set aside.

When lentils are cooked, puree part of the soup (in a blender or with an immersion blender) and return to pot. Add greens and juice from the other half of a lemon and heat through.

*I love the flavor combination of butter and olive oil. The butter boosts flavor, and the olive oil keeps it from being too heavy. I use this combo for most everything now.

*The original recipe called for only 1/4 teaspoon salt, which wasn't nearly enough for my soup. However, I was using homemade turkey stock (remember the turkey carcass?) that was not very salty. If you are using store bought stock, which tends to be saltier, I would use just 1/4 teaspoon salt to start and then go from there.

Oh! And, don't forget that lentil soup tastes better as it ages. The longer you leave it in the pot, the more intense the flavors will be. It's most delicious point is the day after, for lunch.

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