Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Curried Lentil Soup with Fresh Greens

My most recent lentil love soup -- happily vegan, curried, and garnished with sunflower seeds and scallions.

Once, while visiting my sister, I said, "How about some lentil soup?"  knowing I was cooking dinner.   She shuddered and made as if to retch, all the while saying, "I love lentil soup, but..."  Turns out that years ago, when she was still cooking for her family, a very large and delicious kettle of the soup went uneaten by anyone except by her.  Days went by, the soup remained, she kept eating until....well, you might get the picture.  If you are not used to eating lentil soup (or bean soup or beans) every day for days on end, and you embark on such a journey, you might find you are in a tad of intestinal distress.  No one can fake-retch like my sister or show a horror of food quite like her; I wish I had a picture.  I made chicken noodle or asparagus--something else anyway. Maybe we went out?

Here's one of my oldest lentil soups.

This is probably not the best nor most pleasant way to begin a blogpost about a truly delectable lentil soup (My husband, long a trusted critic, said this was the best lentil soups he'd ever eaten--), but it's what came to mind.  I, like my beautiful sister at one time was, am inordinately fond of lentil soup and I've blogged a version or two to say the least.   (Below:  me, left; Helen, right)

 I'm not sure what attracts me to lentils or pulses as they're sometimes known.  I'm comforted by big, simmering pots of anything really; I feel rich indeed when there's something bubbling away on the back or front burner.

 Just to make myself think about it, here are a few reasons I like lentils:
  • they're delicious
  • they're cheap
  • they're low in calories
  • they're easily kept on the pantry shelf for a very long time
  • they're healthy --lots of fiber and protein  (Nutrition info here.)
  • they're beautiful and come in a variety of colors
  • they transcend cultures--lentils are cooked and grown in many parts of the world, including the U.S. (Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, by the way)
  • they're perfectly wonderful with meat, but are maybe even better as a vegetarian or vegan dish
  • they're gluten-free, so everyone can enjoy them
  • they're quickly cooked
  • they're lovely in soup, but also make a power-packed salad or casserole; they're versatile as a bed for other proteins like my Salmon on Lentil Risotto (below)

I make this particular vegan soup on the stove, but it would easily convert to a slow-cooker recipe, though you'll need to sauté the vegetables first for best flavor.  And while I know you're a solo cook, you might eat 2-3 bowls of this a day when you make it.  No worries about six servings.  Lentil soup, if you didn't know it,  freezes very well--just in case you'd like to freeze individual containers for lunches.  This recipe doubles easily; use a bigger pot, though. Try this:

curried lentil soup with fresh greens  6 servings 

I include no crushed red peppers or hot sauce in this soup; it's quite tasty and a bit "warm" without them due to the ginger and the curry powder I used.  If you like things very hot, add extra cayenne to your curry powder or garnish with a drizzle of Sriracha.

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder (I used Penzey's Sweet Curry Powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, trimmed, peeled, small dice
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed, small dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black or white pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine or water
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 1/4 cups lentils (I used basic, brown American lentils)
  • 2 small red potatoes, unpeeled, small dice
  • 3/4 cup each: finely chopped fresh beet greens and kale, including stems*
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions
  • 1/2 lemon
Into  a six-quart stockpot heated over medium flame, cook for just a minute or so, stirring, the garlic, ginger, curry powder, and cumin.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery; season with salt and pepper.  Saute, stirring well, for ten minutes or until softening.  Pour in wine; scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pot and let cook down for 2 or 3 minutes.  Pour in water and vegetable stock; cover and bring to a boil.

Add lentils, lower heat to a good simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally about 15 minutes.  Add potatoes and cook until lentils and all of the vegetables are very tender.  Add a bit more water if the soup is becoming overly thickened.

Stir in the fresh greens and cook about 5 more minutes or until greens are nearly tender.  Taste; adjust seasonings.  Serve hot or cold garnished with a few sunflower seeds, a sprinkle of minced scallions, and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

*You can use all kale or even fresh spinach or even arugula if you haven't any beet greens.  Please do use the stems; they're quite good, though you must chop them finely--1/4-inch pieces or mince.

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

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