Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices


Temperatures here plummeted right after Christmas and have only crept above zero (Fahrenheit) a couple times briefly since. More of the same is forecast the next few days until a warm-up this weekend to the balmy teens and twenties. If ever there was a time for hearty soup, it’s now.

This soup, full of red lentils, carrots, and a little potato for heft, along with warming spices, is the epitome of hearty. And healthy too. Just what I needed after the last couple weeks of holiday foods—the too rich, too sweet, or just too much—foods I don’t normally eat. Setting the food reset button in the right direction is a pleasure when it tastes this good!

Don’t skip the lemon juice or the paprika oil, they really take this to the “Did I really just make something so out-of-this-world delicious?” level. Enjoy!


Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, along with a couple aspects of this New York Times recipe

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 quart vegetable stock or broth

1 cup water

2 medium carrots, diced

1 medium Yukon gold potato, diced

1 ½ cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more for extra seasoning

1 teaspoon dried mint, tarragon, or basil, crushed

1 teaspoon paprika (I used ½ teaspoon smoked hot and ½ teaspoon sweet)

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, for garnish

Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a stockpot. Add onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, or until onion has softened. Stir in coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne, cooking until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

Stir in broth, water, carrots, potato, and lentils and bring to a low boil. Reduce to a lively simmer, and cook until lentils are soft and carrots and potato tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend soup to desired consistency. If you’d like a few chunks of carrot and potato, stop before completely puréed. Stir in lemon juice. Taste and add additional salt and lemon juice if needed. Cover stockpot to keep soup warm.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat until hot. Remove from heat and stir in mint and paprika.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of the paprika oil and chopped cilantro or parsley. Makes 4-6 servings.

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Split Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Spinach over Brown Rice

Dal Soup
After a rainy, dreary day, I was thinking soup after work. A hearty soup, maybe earthy with lentils and spinach. Perusing a few cookbooks, I stumbled upon a red lentil soup that sounded wonderful—fennel seeds, ginger, garlic, and spiced up with red pepper flakes—the aroma practically floated off the page. After a quick pantry check, I found red split lentils (actually are more golden than red when cooked), which would cook even faster than whole lentils and dinner would be on the table that much quicker.

The recipe is adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers by the Moosewood Collective. The Moosewood Collective is comprised of nineteen people who own and operate the iconic Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. The restaurant, open since the early 1970s, is known for their vegetarian food and has amassed many accolades over the years, including James Beard Awards, and was named one of the most influential restaurants of the 20th century by Bon Appetite Magazine. In other words, they know what they’re doing.

Ladled over brown basmati rice and topped with chopped green onions, this dal soup will make your belly happy and your kitchen smell fabulous. Enjoy!

Split Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Spinach over Brown Rice


1 ½ cups split red lentils
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh gingerroot
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chopped fresh spinach
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup full-fat coconut milk

Cooked brown basmati rice
Sliced scallions, for garnish

Rinse the lentils, picking out any shriveled lentils or debris. Drain. Place lentils in a stockpot and add the teaspoon of salt and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat grapeseed oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, gingerroot and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Stir in the spinach and ½ teaspoon salt and cook just until spinach is wilted. Add the coconut milk and simmer for another minute. Remove from heat.

When lentils are cooked, add spinach-coconut milk mixture and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Scoop hot brown rice into bowls and top with a couple ladles full soup. Sprinkle with chopped scallions. Makes 4-6 servings.