Life has its ways of keeping us humble. Just as the sun begins to shine and the horizon looks level, just when we begin to think we’ve got it made, the road takes an unexpected turn and:
- That groundhog sees his shadow.
- Hopes of an early spring in the deep south are dispelled by ice, snow and cold.
- A general feeling of malaise turns out to signal a virus that has left us coughing, sneezing and worse these past two weeks.
- iPhoto does a self-induced update on my computer and suddenly 12000 photos disappear…
But no matter. Let bygones be bygones. Last night I kicked the covers off the bed as I heard the rumble of thunder in the distance. Not once was I awakened by the sound of coughing. This morning white flowers in the small park out my front window proved spring has not been deterred. I have even been able to recover most of my lost photos.
Late Winter Comfort
Though the season has begun to turn I find myself still craving the comfort of humble soups. Last week we made several meals of a large pot of Chicken and Dumplings. This week a pot of Lentil Soup is on the menu. It is fairly simple to prepare. It starts with a few leftover vegetables from the crisper: a rib of celery, a carrot or two and a chopped onion. Add broth, canned tomatoes and dried lentils. Lentils are small and cook quickly so the soup requires little in the way of advanced planning. As is, it tastes warm and healing. Add the panch phoron, coriander seeds and chile pepper for a more exotic flavor and visual interest.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup carrots, diced
2 cups lentils, rinsed (I used a lentil trio from Costco)
1 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2½ quarts water
2 Tablespoon vegetable base
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Place a large (six-quart) pot over medium heat. When hot, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil. When the oil shimmers add the onion, celery and carrots. Saute until the onion is soft and translucent, 6-7 minutes.
Add the lentils, tomatoes, water, vegetable base and cumin. Stir well making sure the vegetable base has dissolved. (Or use 2½ quarts of vegetable broth in place of the water and vegetable base.)
Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook at a low simmer for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the lentil are tender.
Use a stick blender to blend soup to your preferred consistency.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon panch phoron
1 small dried chile pepper
Place a small heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. When hot, add 1 Tablespoon oil. When the oil is hot add the coriander seeds, panch phoron, and dried chile pepper to the oil. Stir and cook, watching carefully, for a short time, until fragrant. Remove from heat.
Ladle Lentil Soup into bowls and top with a small drizzle of the spice garnish, reserving the chile pepper.
Stir any remaining spice mixture, and the chile, if desired, into leftover soup. Lentil soup is often even better the next day, after the flavors have had more time to meld. Prepare more of the spice garnish to top any leftovers, if desired.