A bowl of lentil soup is unmatched in its simplicity. If you can boil water and chop an onion, you
can make this delicious one pot meal. It can be dressed up with a dollop of sour
cream, chopped parsley, and served with crusty bread-- or simply reheated for a hearty work lunch.
I'd like to extend an invitation to my Chicago readers to join me this Wednesday at the Hideout from 5 pm to 8 pm where I will be cooking soup with my fellow Gapers Block contributing food writers and serving it with Columbia College film professor Dan Rybicky and dietician Bettina Tahsin. As part of this Soup and Bread series, all the food will be donated by the cooks and served free of charge. A hat will be passed for donations to the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help others keep food on their plates. Come by to say hello, have a beer and eat some soup while helping out those in need.
While there are many excellent recipes and endless modifications one can make to lentil soup, here is my current favorite. It has a unique earthiness and bite to it thanks to the cumin and black pepper.
Lentil and Sweet Red Pepper Soup with Cumin and Black Pepper
Adapted from The Zuni Café Cookbook
3 Tbs olive oil
½ C finely chopped red bell pepper
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ C carrot, finely chopped
¼ C celery, finely chopped
¼ C yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 Turkish bay leaf
1 sprig of Italian parsley, chopped (both
stem and leaves)
1 C lentils, preferably Beluga or French green
4 to 4 ½ C good-quality vegetable stock
In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs oil. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes.
In a mortar, crush the peppercorns and cumin seeds. Add them to the saucepan, and cook the mixture for 1 minute.
Add the remaining oil, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, parsley, and lentils, and 3 C of stock. Stir and
bring it to a simmer. Reduce the heat, and cook the soup uncovered, barely simmering, until the lentils are tender and have absorbed most of the stock, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes to allow the lentils to soften.
Using an immersion blender, partially puree the soup, so that about half of the lentils are still whole. Add a bit more broth to bring the soup to your desired texture and season to taste.