I've had bad luck lately with red lentils. Which is better than having bad luck with men, bad luck with the law, or a trick knee, but still. It's been disappointing: the mediocre dal, a delicious meal of red lentils and pasta I ate in Maryland over the holidays but was unable to re-create at home. So I turned last weekend to an old standby, a red lentil dish that has never let me down.
I'm surprised I've never written here before about Red Lentil Soup With Lemon, as it's been one of my favorites since I made it for the first time a couple years ago. At first glance it might not look particularly special, but unlike that deadbeat dal or the red-lentil pasta dish I just can't master, this soup is a sure thing.
This may be a lentil dish, but it's an elegant one: If the lentils are the backbone of the soup, the cumin and chili powder are its little black dress, the lemon and cilantro sparkling accessories. It's definitely suitable to serve to guests, which I did last Saturday, and makes great leftovers, too, which I ate all week, natch.
Red Lentil Soup With Lemon
From the New York Times
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
A pinch [or two] of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of ½ lemon, more to taste [I use closer to a whole lemon, depending on how juicy it is]
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro [don't skip this; it's more than just a garnish]
1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper, and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils, and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup [or more, I usually purée closer to three-quarters of it] then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.
5. Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro.
I hope you all have a lovely weekend. The yachtsman is off to Vegas, where he's going to bet our life savings at the craps table, while I stay home, proofread, and bake cookies. Seriously. I've been thinking about these chocolate chip cookies for over a year, so I think I can wait the 36 hours between making the dough and baking the cookies. And if I can't, no one will be the wiser.