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Lentil Soup, TWO WAYS

It’s winter — well, outside of California, it’s still winter and lentil soup is particularly hearty and filling on a cold day. For me lentils evoke a sense of excitement and warmth in the same way a bowl of hot, gooey Mac N Cheese might inspire a comfort food craving. This protein heavy staple is a key ingredient in dishes throughout the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia that fall under that “happy place” category of food. Lentils are a key component to koshari, an Egyptian dish once relegated to street food that has entered the trendy MENA restaurant scene. Among my favorite Indian and Pakistani dishes is dahl,  which refers to the many, many variations of a lentil stew that can range in spice and taste depending on the area of origin. Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese cuisine, otherwise known as Shami (Levantine) food are known for mujaddara (lentil-rice dish) and Haraa’ Usba (lentil-pasta-fried dough dish).

Among nearly all of the above, the key ingredients giving these lentil recipes life are cumin, onions or both, just like the two lentil soup recipes shared here. Both are delicious, super filling and simple to make. Whether you enjoy whole lentils or a creamy texture, you have options! (Although I’m secretly hoping that you’ll try both.)

SOUP WITH WHOLE LENTILS

Brown (Green-Brown) lentils, 1 cup

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 Tablespoons

Cumin, 1 teaspoon

Salt, 1 teaspoon

Black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon

Garlic, 2 cloves

Carrots, 3 chopped

Cilantro, 1 small bunch

Hot water, 3 to 4 cups

To prep, rinse the lentils and set aside to dry. Chop carrots and mince cilantro. Crush the garlic cloves using either a mortar and pestle (seen below) or a press.  After ingredients are prepped, pre-boil water in a pot or kettle.

In cooking pot, add olive oil and garlic over low heat, tossing for under one minute to keep from browning. Next, stir in carrots, covering them in garlic and olive oil. After about 30 seconds, add chopped cilantro and stir for another 45 seconds. Fold in lentils and repeat, mixing all the ingredients together. Finally, stir in spices and salt.

Pour water over the lentil mixture so that water is at least an inch above the ingredients.

Feel free to add water if the lentils absorb too much water at first. Watch the video for a quick guide! Serve with sliced lemons to taste.

PUREED LENTIL SOUP

This recipe has less ingredients, with the most time consuming parts having to do with simmering over the stove.

Red lentils, 1 1/2 cups

Onion, 1 medium to large

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 3 to 4 Tablespoons

Cumin, 2 teaspoons

Black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon

Salt, 1 teaspoon

Hot water, 4 cups

To prep, rinse the lentils and add to soup pot. Pour in water, and set over a low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Chop onion.

In small sauce pan over low heat, add olive oil and chopped onions. Coat the onions completely in olive oil, stirring intermittently for up to 10 minutes. The onions should fully caramelize. Stir in cumin, black pepper and salt, and allow to caramelize even further for another 5 minutes. (Watch the video to get a sense of just how caramelized to aim for!)

Once the lentils have softened and turned from red into an olive green color, puree directly in the pot using a hand blender. If a hand blender is not accessible, transfer to a regular blender or food processor to puree the boiled lentils, then pour back into the pot.

Stir the caramelized onions into the pot of pureed lentils. Allow to simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Serve with a side of sliced lemons to taste.

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  1. Pingback: Fattoush Salad, healthy side dish, perfect during Ramadan

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