Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Curried Lentil Soup

Thanksgiving is over, Black Friday is over, Cyber Monday is gone, so we are officially in the throes of the Winter Holiday season! Summer is my favorite food season, but winter is a very close second. Winter in Northern California is crisp, cool, and rainy enough that you get to spend gray Sundays by the fire reading a good book.

The best winter food is cozy, warm, and filling, but not heavy; a gastronomical hug if you will. It’s a time for slow cooking, rich sauces, and deep, smooth, round flavors. I particularly love soups and stews with a big hunk of crusty whole grain bread, and a pile of greens on the side. As such, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting flavor combinations for winter. Every month, I quickly peruse my Bon Appétit magazine and dog ear the reasonably vegan friendly recipes. The Christmas issue is understandably meat-centric, what with all the different animals you can roast on Christmas Day. Amidst all the birds and beasts was a humble lentil soup recipe with a brilliant twist.

Author Molly Wizenberg waxes poetic about the under appreciated lentil for two pages, recounting her numerous travails in developing the perfect creamy lentil soup. She ends with this fabulous recipe that uses puréed chickpeas as a thickener, cutting down on the heaviness of a traditional butter rich lentil soup. The flavor is great, the texture is sublime, and it is just the thing you want to come home to at the end of a cold and rainy day.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion diced
1 carrot diced finely
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup French green lentils
4 1/4 cups water
1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 green onions sliced thinly

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add 1 clove garlic and sauté for 5 more minutes. Add the curry powder and cook for 1 minute. Add the lentils and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

In a food processor, purée the chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 clove garlic until very smooth.

Add the chickpea purée to the lentils. Season with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, thin with water until it has reached the desired consistency. Spoon into bowls, and top with sliced green onions. I served mine with garlic pita toasts on the side. Enjoy immediately!

*The next day, I had not quite enough soup for lunch, so I made some brown basmati rice and spooned the lentils over it for a quick leftover lunch!

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