Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lentil Soup

Doesn't lentil soup just feel healthy? Well, that's what I like to think, anyway. Last week, amidst my bean escapade, I made a vat of the stuff. It lasted for three days and became a short-lived joke ("What are you having for lunch?" "Lentil soup." "What are we having for dinner?" "Lentil soup." And so on and so forth.)

I meant to use Alton Brown's recipe, which has rave reviews online, but as I was adding the lentils I very ungracefully dumped two times the amount the recipe called for of those little suckers into the pot. Unfortunately, I didn't have all the other ingredients to simply double the recipe, and improvised. It's hard to mess up soup, and it's hard to mess up something so simple as lentil soup.

The soup was delish. My version, of course, had to oodles more cumin and a whole bunch of chopped cilantro - there is just no other way in my book and the soup took on an Indian undertone. In fact, we had it with roti. (For a girl with Crohn's, I have a very questionable affinity for all things Indian food.)

Below is Alton's recipe in its pure form. My notes follow in italics.

Lentil Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • 2 quarts chicken or veggie broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground grains of paradise

Place the olive oil into a large 6-quart Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and salt and sweat until the onions are translucent, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the lentils, tomatoes, broth, coriander, cumin and grains of paradise and stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook at a low simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Using a stick blender, puree to your preferred consistency. Serve immediately.

My notes: What the heck is "grains of paradise" anyway?! I opted to use canned tomatoes, a 30 oz. can, and omitted those crazy grains of paradise. I added MORE CUMIN, a dash of garam masala and coriander, loads of freshly chopped cilantro, a few dashes of chili powder, and garlic. I don't have a fancy stick blender so I dumped half the soup into my food processor (where I also had diced the veggies) and pureed. I left the other half in its whole form because I never recalled my mother ever pureeing her lentil soup. I also felt some of the lentils should remain in their true form. I know, I have no shame.


  1. Grains of paradise isn't even listed in my Food Lover's Companion, so I had to google it as I've never heard of it before. Seems the spice is a seed from a pod, and the flavor is similar to black pepper, with hints of cardamon and ginger, and "underlying notes of camphor" (think Vicks Vaporub). The plant belongs to the ginger family and comes from West Africa. It was used in Elizabethan Europe as a less expensive substitute for black pepper--which came from India. I don't think I'm adding this one to my spice drawer.

    Incidentally, stick blenders are great-I have one-but a potato masher works well, too. If you cook the lentils a bit longer, they fall apart on their own.


  2. Thanks for bringing your food-nerdiness to da blog.

    Seems like "Grains of Paradise" is one of those esoteric things that people include to stick up their noses to us lowly, home cooks.

  3. I notice that this recipe uses a Dutch oven.

  4. If I hear "Dutch oven" one more time from you or Matt I'm gonna.....!!!!!