Red Lentil-Vegetable Soup

June 11th, 2010 at 12:12 pm
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I told you last week that I was going to explore Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Soups this week. I suppose that’s only half true.

I just couldn’t hold back from diving into both Madison’s cookbook as well as 5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate. I ended up creating a recipe that merged elements from both books.

Flipping through Madison’s book, I kept going back to the “Lentil and Pea Soups” section. The photographs in this chapter were particularly inspiring to me, plus I just love lentils. I settled on trying out the Red Lentil and Colorful Vegetable Soup, and also tagged a few others to try in the coming weeks or maybe even this fall since it’s not quite soup weather right now. 

I made the mistake of browsing through 5 Spices, 50 Dishes right after Vegetable Soups. I immediately wanted to try a good half dozen of the recipes in Ruta Kahate’s book. Her recipes are based on five spices common to Middle-Eastern cuisine: coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, and turmeric. In the introduction, Ruta promises to deliver 1) Indian food that’s not intimidating, 2) simple recipes, but not simplistic dishes, and 3) the same spices, but not the same flavors.

I was torn. Delectable, easy, fragrant Indian food? Or vegetable-centric, right-off-the-farmstand-cuisine from the incredible Deborah Madison? Quite a pickle, wouldn’t you say?

In the end, I decided to take the lentil-vegetable soup concept and merge it with the spicy Indian theme. And I couldn’t be happier with the result. Both books are jam-packed with wonderful recipes, culinary tips, and beautiful photographs. Some day I’ll give them each their time in the spotlight, but for now they will share the stage in this soup. I like to think that—because it’s a blend of two amazing recipes from two amazing chefs and authors—it’s doubly delicious.  

Red Lentil-Vegetable Soup - serves 4

A few notes before you start. Be sure to chop your vegetables roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. The size of the chop can vary according to your preferences: for a chunky stew, keep them in big pieces. Chop them into a small dice for a finer consistency. Also, sometimes parsnips can have a woody core running through them. Look for small ones, as these are more tender and you can leave the core intact. If large parsnips are your only option, cut around the core or cut it out when chopping them.

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, peeled and chopped

4 small parsnips, peeled and chopped

2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 tsp. brown mustard seeds

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. freshly grated ginger root (or finely chopped)

1/2 tsp. coriander

1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 cup red lentils, rinsed

5 cups water

Sea salt and black peppper

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add onion, carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes, and mustard seeds. Cook, stirring often so the potatoes do not burn, until vegetables just start to become tender—about 5-6 minutes. Add cumin, ginger, coriander, turmeric, and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add red lentils and water. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pot partially with lid, and simmer over low heat until lentils break down and vegetables are tender—15-20 minutes.

(At this point you could stir in some greens such as kale, chard, or spinach and wilt them into the soup for a few minutes before serving. It’s up to you.)

Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Sneak peek for next week…

Join me next week as I cook from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for  Crowd. I will try to stay on target this time around and fix my sights on Moosewood and Moosewood only. Really, I will. I promise.

What cookbooks have you been cooking from lately? Leave a comment and let’s talk!

(This post is linked to Fight Back Friday.)


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