Thursday, January 20, 2011


I’m not usually gaga for lentils, but every now and then I want them.

Aaaand I just realized that I started my two previous lentil entries with variations on this same sentence.

Anyway, I had a cold two weeks ago, and when I read a rave review at The Kitchn of this Molly Wizenberg (aka Orangette) recipe from Bon Appetit, it immediately sounded like just the thing I needed: warm, hearty, spicy, citrusy, cheerfully yellowish, wholesome, healing. What won me over was the secret ingredient: a lemony, garlicky chickpea puree (basically my recipe for hummus) stirred into the soup to give it a creamy, velvety texture without the richness. And indeed, this is a genius move. It also adds a nice, bright counterpoint to the earthiness of the lentils. I amped up the flavor even more by basically skipping the lemon-wedge garnish and squeezing the whole thing right into the pot, and I was not sorry.

This soup didn’t overcome A’s antipathy for lentils (if bacon and sausage couldn’t do it, we can hardly expect a miracle now), but by the time we ate it he was in the throes of a severe version of my cold and also swore he couldn’t taste the curry. Granted, my curry powder is shamefully old and not very fancy, so I’m interested in trying again and seeing how much new, good-quality curry powder makes a difference, but mostly I think his taste buds were defunct, because it tasted plenty curry-y to me. I do think I should have cooked the lentils a tiny bit longer; I slavishly followed the time listed in the recipe instead of testing them myself, and even though French green lentils* are supposed to hold their shape a bit more than regular lentils, mine seemed a bit too al dente. Regardless, I really liked this and may crave it again before winter’s over.

*This was my first time trying them, and it turns out they are not the same thing as ordinary green lentils: Bon Appetit helpfully notes that they are “small, dark green, and speckled with black; they can be found at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.” I got mine in the bulk section at Whole Foods.

Oh, and I strongly suspect the butter could be left out of this entirely, to make it healthier/vegan. The chickpea puree seems to do plenty to impart flavor and dairy-like creaminess. I’ll try omitting it next time and let you know how it turns out.

UPDATE, 6/12: Yeah, you can leave out the butter completely; I've tried it with no discernible difference in the results. I'm marking it optional below.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder
1 cup French green lentils
4 ¼ cups (or more) water, divided
1 15- to 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils and 4 cups water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, ¼ cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in a food processor or blender.

3. Add chickpea puree and butter (if using) to soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired. Add water by ¼ cupfuls to thin to desired consistency.

4. Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle with thinly sliced green onions and serve with lemon wedges.

Serves: Original recipe says 6, but I got 5 smallish servings, although that may be because I accidentally skipped the “Add water by ¼ cupfuls to thin to desired consistency” direction.
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good; can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for months.

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