Sunday, March 7, 2010
I used to make soup every Sunday when we lived at Bell Orchard. Soup is the perfect Sunday meal- and it provides leftovers for lunch during the week. I would make something different every weekend, I was the self proclaimed Soup Mama...
Now that I'm serving and my schedule is all out of whack, I have probably only made soup a handful of times since moving here. Scott likes to remind me that I've yet to make chili this year. I can't believe it myself, actually... Maybe there is still time before spring is completely upon us.
It was gorgeous this weekend, and if there was a weekend not to make soup this may have been it. Believe me, I'd actually have rather been running at the park since I've been craving an outdoor run. I've been waiting for the weather to break because unlike my friends, Melanie and Katie, who love to run in sub zero weather, I need it to be at least 55 degrees. As luck would have it, I came down with a nasty head cold this weekend and running anywhere was not a great idea if I want to recover quickly.
Soup seriously is the best comfort food, and when you're under the weather, nothing is better. The comfort starts the second you start making it, it just makes you feel good and the house smell even better... I'm not sure I can express my adoration for soup. I decided I wanted something a bit hearty, a bit spicy, and very warming. Red Lentil soup would be perfect. I did get to enjoy the weather on my walk to Whole Foods where I picked up the few vegetables I needed and a few packs of Emergen-C.
My red lentil soup is a hodge podge of a million I've made. I feel like I've taken the best of each of them, added my own preferences and a star was born.
First, I must talk about my dutch oven. I have a red 7 quart Le Creuset. Le Creuset pots are porcelain coated cast iron. If you cook a lot, they really are worth the investment. And if you buy 'seconds,' they are discounted quite a bit. Being seconds means they have a tiny air bubble on the finish somewhere, so not a big deal. Best $100 I ever spent- and I have a 7 quart- trust. That was a deal and a half. Greensboro peeps- head over the Le Creuset store at Alamance Crossing. I've gotten so many deals there. They distribute heat unlike anything I've ever cooked with- you can bring them up to temp, then back off, and they just hold the heat and cook so evenly.
I add a few glugs of evoo to the pot, and add a couple skinny carrots cut into thin wheels, a small diced yellow onion, 2 small diced waxy yellow potatoes, 2 garlic cloves and a jalapeno- both minced, about an inch of ginger grated with a microplane, a hefty pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. I give it some time to soften and break down a bit- maybe 5-10 minutes. Now, it's time to party. I use my spice grinder (just a cheap coffee grinder I use only for spices) to grind up a large star anise and about a teaspoon of cumin seed. OMG, it smells amazing... those get added to the veg and now it's curry time. Curry powder is so vast in its variation. Just buy quality curry powder and it will be good regardless of which spice takes the lead or how much heat it has. I have about 5 different, but when it comes to red lentils, I want coriander to stand out. I love coriander's soft floral flavor. I have one from Penzey's that is a Balti curry powder. It's one of the best I've ever bought, I absolutely adore the blend of spices here. So, I add about 2 teaspoons- maybe a bit more- and coat the veggies with the spices. I give it a minute or two to take in the heat and get toasty. Then, I add a box of vegetable stock and a about a cup of red lentils that I gave a good rinse.
Heat up, bring it to a slow boil, then back down to just a slow simmer. Lid goes on with about an inch of breathing space on one side and now I have time to get the rest of dinner together. I just give it a stir every few minutes making sure it's not getting too thick (If so, add a bit of water) and not boiling too heavy.
I cut 3 large scallions on the diagonal and add them to a small skillet with a bit of evoo and about a teaspoon of butter. I will let them cook down and use them for a garnish. The bright green will pop in contrast to the yellow/orange of the finished soup.
I cut a small baguette into cubes and put them in a zip lock bag along with a pinch of salt, ground pepper, few shakes of crushed red pepper flake, and a generous amount of Penzey's Tuscan Italian blend. I shake and move around the cubes so they get well covered with the oil and spices. Emptied out onto a cookie sheet (after eating a couple of them, of course) they go into the oven on 350 until golden. Also plan to use these for a garnish. They will provide a perfect contrast in texture on top of the soup.
I get together a salad- romaine, parsley, carrot, scallion, tomato, walnuts, and almonds. Dressing tonight will be a throw together of evoo, sherry vinegar, bit of dijon, good pinch of parmesan, salt, and black pepper.
When the soup is done, after about a half hour or so, I check the seasonings. Sometimes, I might need to add a little more curry, cumin, or salt. This time, it's perfect and I start to get excited for Scott's first bite. He's my biggest fan and it's been awhile since I've made a lentil soup... he's going to love it. Soup Mama is back! I get out the potato masher and mash the soup up a bit. If I had an immersion blender, I may hit it for a second, but I don't, and the masher works pretty well for the effect I want.
I get our salads dressed and the soup garnished and it's time for a quiet Sunday supper. The apartment is quiet- no music, no TV, no washer running. Just Scott and me and Henry, who is adorably napping on the couch. Scott showers me with compliments and we visit between bites. It really tastes so good. This is exactly what I wanted tonight. I'm even breathing easier and I realize it's the best I've felt all day- cooking and then sharing the meal with my sweet man. I am nourished completely.
***I talk about Pensey's a lot. There is one in Carytown and I've been super happy with everything I've bought there. They do ship, so check them out. Great stuff.