Sunday was bitingly cold. Although we had enjoyed an unseasonably mild fall, yesterday brought a rude reminder of winter’s imminent arrival. I took stock of what we had lying around the kitchen and thought about what I could make with those ingredients (to avoid having to bike to the nearest grocery store and freezing my face and hands).
A quick survey revealed the makings of Turkish red lentil soup. The prospect of dipping into mercimek çorbası made me particularly happy because a dear friend has been on my mind a lot lately. She has been living in Istanbul for the past few years, but the lentils in my cupboard reminded me of how her eyes lit up when we discovered an authentic bowl from a local restaurant when she was back in Philly.
For basic guidelines, I used a recipe from the Whole Foods website: Whole Foods Market Turkish Red Lentil Soup. Here is my improvised list of ingredients–Janielle, I hope you approve:
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 stalk of celery, diced
- 3 scallions, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/8 tsp marash pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cube no-salt vegetable broth (makes 2 cups)
- 6 cups water
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- salt to taste
I heated the olive oil over medium heat in my favorite Le Creuset dutch oven. Once the oil started to shimmer I threw in the cumin, paprika, and marash pepper. After a few stirs (the spices become fragrant almost immediately) I added the “mirepoix” (vegetables). I stirred that a bit, dropped the heat to low, and covered the pot. After the vegetables softened (really only a few minutes), I added the remaining ingredients except the tomato paste and salt. Le Creuset recommends not cooking on high heat, since cast iron is such an excellent conductor. I cranked the heat to medium high, put on the lid, and let the soup come to a boil. As soon as the soup started to boil I stirred in the tomato paste, dropped the heat to low, and let it simmer for about 20 min.
At this point I turned off the heat because my boyfriend and I were due to meet a friend at a local watering hole. The great thing about soup is that you can just let it sit–it’s only going to get better as the flavors develop.
Fast forward a few hours (and glasses of wine), and I’m back home and somewhat peckish despite snacking on roasted broccolini, gravlax, and spiced peanuts (Philadelphia boasts some truly wonderful gastropubs). I spy a third of a head of cauliflower, a small bagful of brussel sprouts, and–daring me to make something of them–a bag of bright red radishes leftover from an old farm share.
Thirty minutes later I am nibbling on mixed roasted vegetables and looking forward to easy dinners over the next few days:
- brussel sprouts–quartered, tossed with sliced shallots, about a tablespoon each of sesame oil and soy sauce, then lightly glazed with about a teaspoon of honey
- cauliflower–cut into florets, tossed with quartered kalamata olives, a tablespoon of olive oil, a sprinkling of marash pepper, and sea salt
- radishes–quartered, tossed with a teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of thyme and sea salt
Coming soon: a recent hip sequence that had participants sighing, and how I am turning my birthday into an opportunity for giving. Meanwhile, safe travels and happy holidays to all!