February 27, 2008
A Soup A Day To Keep The Cold At Bay..
When I started this post last week, I was cribbing and tired, recovering from a bout of flu. The weather plays havoc being warm one day and cold the next day leading to a spate of sickness all around. One after another, domino style, everyone in the family came down with the flu! (Apparently 6 out of every 10 people here in the NE are down with the flu.) So while the rest of my siblings were vacationing in warmer climates, our taste buds were the only ones here on vacation. I was surfing the blogs and everything looked so appealing but food generally tasted like variations of cardboard.My cooking was horrible to say the least! Only soups managed to sear a hot path down the throat!
Of course I love the naturality of the change of seasons (and the nice new clothes that a change of season signifies)and the white blanket of snow and hot chocolate and so on etc but seriously, I can only take so much of this cold weather. I guess its necessary to renew the earth and my family in the other hemisphere needs to have their summer now and the so on..My toes are so cold that I think blood froze on the way down to them and only hot liquids i.e. soups and tea, fed intravenously would keep me warm.
But then it snowed and my faith in the necessity of winter was reaffirmed. If it has to be cold anyway, at least it should snow like last Friday so that schools close and the kids can have a snowball fight and make snow mans. (I can say this now, as I am at home and not scrambling for alternate day care or forced to take leave on an unexpected holiday unlike last year.) So my cribbing post had to be modified to a "I love snow" post.:)
There is something about the quietness and beauty of a snow "storm" that is soothing and refreshing. The whiteness of the snow just blankets out the dead lawn and ugly twiggy trees to become a beautiful winter wonderland. Even the ugliest house on the block gets a makeover and becomes a charming cottage and I get reminded of Robert Frost's poems.
Well, everyone wants their version of soup at home and so I decided to do a soup festival. If anyone wants to join my soup fest, just link back to this post all through the coming two weeks! We can have a soup party for the flu ridden.
Red Velvet Lentil Soup
So for the first of this soup series I chose a Red Velvet Lentil Soup. It came out in the NY Times Dining Section some weeks back and I had to try it immediately. The author, Melissa Clark described the texture and color of the soup and only the term "red" and "velvety" stayed in my head.
It seemed so apt that I added it to the name. You would think, "its just some "dal"(lentils)..whats the big deal about Americans suddenly discovering our staple"...but taste this..It's dal, its tomatoey, its lemony, its a bit spicy, but the pureeing and the drizzle of olive oil elevates it from a humble dal to a soupy taste to be savored on its own. Pour the leftovers over some bulgur or rice and you have a meal.
If you can't see the recipe at the link, here is my version of it with some minor modifications.
You will need:
2 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste( Substitute with fresh/canned tomatoes but fry them a bit)
1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 tsp red chili powder
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth (I tried with chicken stock and water...both taste good)
1 cup red split lentils(Masoor Dal)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.
1. In a large pot or pressure cooker, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Reduce heat to medium and add onion and garlic, and saute until golden, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in tomato paste or tomatoes diced, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder and paprika, and saute for 2 minutes longer. Don't be tempted to add more chili powder as I was..its a soup, not dal. Take care not to burn the spices.
3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. (Use a pressure cooker for one whistle to save time.)
4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, puree half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.
5. Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.
Yield: 4 servings.