What to do when its the first day of spring, and yet you're sitting at home with a cold and the windchill is 4 degrees outside?!?
I saw this very simple lentil soup recipe yesterday at Native Foods Cafe, a vegan restaurant. Then this morning I woke up feeling less than 100% and had almost no food at home, so I decided to give this soup a shot.
Slight tangent: In case you're wondering- no I'm not going vegan. But I live nearby the cafe and have always been curious. Last night I had a delicious (and ginormous) quinoa bowl filled to the brim with sweet potatoes, grilled veggies, and a vegan chicken skewer-- all in a flavorful, slightly spicy "Moroccan" sauce. (Not sure I tasted a huge punch of Moroccan flavors, even though that's what they called the dish, but it was really good nonetheless.) Anywhoo, a schtick they have at the cafe is to plaster the place with a few recipes: on the walls, menus, and little cards at your table. So yesterday when I saw this lentil soup recipe, it called out to me.
And WOW! What a soup! It's insanely flavorful for the limited number of ingredients in it, most or all of which you likely have sitting in your pantry just waiting to be cooked up. And it's not your run of the mill lentil soup. Yes, it has onions, garlic, carrots, cumin, and a bit of cayenne it in. Nothing too crazy there... so far...
BUT, after pureeing the soup, you finish it off with a healthy amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice and cilantro, at which point the soup takes on a totally different flavor. It lightens up the hearty spices and thick soup into something that is pretty hard to put into words. Let's just say its a party in your mouth.
So if you live in a crappy part of the country right now that's still under the blanket of cold-ass weather, whip up a bowl of this thick, creamy lentil soup. Hopefully it'll make you feel better like it did for me.
Creamy Lentil Soup, adapted slightly from Native Foods Cafe
Note: I'm not the giantest fan of cumin, so I replaced about half the cumin with baharat. Feel free to play around and add other spices as well, like garam masala or coriander.
Also, this recipe calls for a hefty amount of lemon juice. I loved the punch of tart flavor, but I can imagine some people out there might not like it quite so much. I'd recommend starting with 1/4 or 1/2 the amount called for. Then, if you like it, keep adding the rest of the juice to taste.
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
8 oz red lentils
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 tsp ground cumin (see note above)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cilantro
1/3 cup lemon juice, this was 2 lemons for me (see note above)
salt, to taste
- Place stock and lentils in a medium to large stockpot (at least 2 quarts) and bring to a boil. Reduce head to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are tender.
- Meanwhile, in a nonstick pan, saute onions and carrots in the oil until soft, at least 5 minutes. (I like to add a bit of salt to my veggies at this point to speed up the process.) When they're soft, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cumin, cayenne, and a hint more salt and saute for another minute until the garlic and spices are fragrant.
- Add the vegetables to the cooked lentils and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. If you notice your soup is very thick, feel free to add water a tablespoon or two at a time. (However, don't make your soup too watery as you will be adding lemon juice at the end of the cooking.)
- Puree soup in a blender or food processor, being careful with the hot soup that it doesn't splatter in the process. Return the soup to the pot and stir in cilantro and lemon juice. (Note: you don't have to blend the soup, but the blending turns the slightly mealy texture of the lentils into a smooth and creamy textured soup. I highly recommend trying it blended.)
- Serve hot with bread and lemon wedges (optional)