6th September, 2010 - Posted by admin - No Comments
Labor Day has just whooshed past, which means we are now officially out of summer and into autumn – according to the calendar anyway.
Fall usually inspires hearty dishes that require lots of low and slow cooking. However, there are still plenty of good looking vegetables turning up in the produce sections and growers markets. So how to reconcile these two desires? Soup.
Soup is a very forgiving menu item. It can be tossed together in 10 minutes and served as a first course while the rest of the meal comes together. Or it can simmer for hours, allowing the flavors to come together into something greater than than the sum of it’s parts. This soup falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
I was looking for a hearty soup that didn’t require meat and would make use of some of the veggies that were knocking around the crisper drawer. Lentils are good meat alternative that also delivers protein to the table.
Lentils are one of those ingredients that have always been with us. Researchers believe that we’ve been eating lentils in some form since the Neolithic period, they were also one of the first crops domesticated in Asia. Combined with rice or other grains, lentils form a complete protein.
Lentils come in colors ranging from white to green to red to black. All can be prepared pretty much the same way, so choose the color you like best and proceed. The recipe below calls for red lentils, but it honestly doesn’t matter much. Cook times for lentils vary from 10 to 30 minutes. Soaking them overnight will shorten the cook time.
Because lentils have an earthy texture and mild flavor, they can stand up to stronger flavors very well. The soup below starts with sauteed garlic and shallot and curry powder. Be careful not to burn the garlic – the bitter flavor will get into everything. The curry powder should be on the mild side. I recommend garam masala if you can find it, or the spice jar labeled “Curry Powder” in the spice aisle of the grocery store. It tends to be mild and slightly sweet.
The vegetables can be chef’s choice. Carrots go well with curry and I had a lot of them. The hearty greens are having their final heyday right now, so if you have any, go for it. Fresh chopped tomatoes stirred in at the end would also lend a little sweetness to the whole dish.
Raise a spoon to the end of summer and enjoy.
Red Lentil Soup
Serves 2 for dinner or 4 as a starter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 shallot minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
5 cups chicken or veggie broth
3/4 cup dry red lentils
2 carrots, chopped into even-sized pieces
bunch of escarole chopped (any hearty bitter green will do)
non-fat plain yogurt to finish
chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
cayenne and black pepper to taste
1. Heat oil, add garlic and onion, cook gently until soft. Add curry powder and cardamom, stir and cover for about 1 minute.
2. Add broth and lentils, carrots and any other firm vegetables. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered until lentils are soft. about 20 minutes.
3. Add escarole, stir and cook until greens are tender. serve with a dollop of yogurt and fresh cilantro. Finish with a little cayenne pepper and black pepper.