Sunday, October 24, 2010

Red Lentil and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

 I’ve always loved all kinds of lentils. They have a huge amount going for them: they’re inexpensive, low fat, high protein, high fiber and they cook incredibly quickly, especially for legumes. Brown lentils are more common in the US, but you can also find black, green, and red lentils pretty easily. My local supermarket carries all of these types in their bulk area. The use of brown versus red lentils is largely a geographic one. In Western Europe, the brown, black and green varieties are more common. As you move east towards Turkey and the Middle East, red lentils become predominant. They’re also a staple of Indian cooking where they’re called Masoor Dal. This recipe is Indian influenced, but it’s not a traditional dish. It has a fair amount of ingredients, but it comes together pretty quickly and you can make it all in about an hour. I puree it, but you can keep it chunky if you prefer. If fat is no object and you want to make it richer, you can add some coconut milk just before serving it, but I normally don’t because I think it’s incredibly satisfying as is. Serve it with any type of flatbread.

Red Lentil and Roasted Pepper Soup

1 Onion, finely diced
3 teaspoons of oil, divided (your choice – olive and canola both work well)
2 teaspoons of salt (you can add more or less if you want)
2 cayenne peppers (or more if you want), finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, finely diced (or grated if you prefer)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, toasted and ground
4 sweet red peppers (roasted, peeled, and seeded), diced
2 cups of red lentils (about 1 pound), well rinsed
3 oz. tomato paste (half of a small can)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
6 curry leaves (optional)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cups diced cilantro
½ cup of coconut milk (optional)

1. Add the two teaspoons of the oil to a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and sauté for 5-7 minutes until they start to brown.
2. Add the cayenne peppers, garlic, ginger, and roasted red pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add the ground spices (turmeric, coriander, cumin, and fenugreek). Cook for an additional 30 seconds.
3. Add the red lentils, tomato paste and 6-8 cups of water (depending on how thick you like your soup). Bring to a boil and then turn down to a low simmer. Cook until the lentils are tender and starting to fall apart, about 30 minutes.
4. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot, or transfer in batches to a blender. (You can also skip this step if you want it chunky)
5. In a small pan, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and add the whole cumin and black mustard seeds (and curry leaves). Cook until the seeds darken and the start to pop. Add the contents of the pan to the soup.
6. Add the lime juice and coconut milk (if using).  Add the cilantro and server. 

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