One of my first blog posts was a recipe for Lentil Soup that used green lentils. It tasted fine, but didn’t even look good enough to rate taking a picture. My most recent Food and Wine magazine (February 2012) contained a recipe for Egyptian Lentil Soup that featured fresh tomatoes and small red lentils, and looked beautiful. Today I decided to try it out. I made quite a few modifications to the recipe (which I describe below) and wound up with what I think is the best lentil soup I’ve ever had. It made two quarts (plus a small bowl that I ate right away). I’ve already given away one quart and plan to make another batch very soon. It has the added advantage of being very simple, and I was able to make it using only basic ingredients that I had on-hand.
Instead of cooking the vegetables in butter, I used olive oil (and used half as much oil as the butter called for in the original recipe). I didn’t have any celery in the house. I thought about substituting a little celery seed, but I was out of that as well, so I skipped that. I love spicy soups and stews, so I used about three-times as much of the spices. Finally, I rarely use fresh tomatoes when they’re not in season, so I substituted canned organic fire-roasted tomatoes (and a little tomato paste) for the fresh tomatoes.
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat over medium-high heat:
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
When shimmering (but not smoking) add to the pan:
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped (I don’t peel my carrots)
- 3 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
Cook, stirring frequently (be careful the garlic doesn’t burn), for about 5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Stir in:
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1.5 tsp. ground coriander
- 1.5 tsp. ancho chili powder
Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute or two until very fragrant. Stir into the pan:
- 1 tsp. tomato paste
- 1 14.5-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes (I like to use Muir Glen organic brand)
- Salt (to taste)
Continue to cook stirring frequently for about 5 more minutes. Add to the pan:
- 2 cups small red lentils (I buy mine in the bulk bin at Whole Foods), rinsed well
- 6 cups water
Turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to simmer and simmer uncovered for about 30-45 minutes stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on it and add up to 2 more cups water if needed. Adjust the salt to taste. Once the lentils and vegetables are very tender remove from heat. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor, or (preferably) in the pan using an immersion blender.
- dollop of plan yogurt (I like Fage 2-percent Greek yogurt)
- juice from one lemon wedge