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.


Happy cook said...

Yumm this soup will really make you feel deliciously warm

Nupur said...

Food tasting like cardboard :( oh dear, there is nothing like losing one's taste-buds to bring on that feeling of being sick. Hope you have recovered completely now.
The soup sounds completely delicious! I think I have all the ingredients on hand to make this for dinner tonight.

Kalai said...

Shaheen, I can totally understand your pain! There's nothing like feeling horrible and the weather's cold and dreary outside. Hang in there, girl! Hope you're feeling better now. That soup looks so warm, comforting, and inviting! Yet simple. Nice dish! Hugs to you! :)

indosungod said...

Soup looks delicious just the right one for those recovering taste buds. I can exactly understand how you are feeling, we went through our bout with flu only a week ago.
Good Luck and get better soon and lets hope that summer comes here soon enough.

Namratha said...

Oh poor u, hope you are feeling better now! My hubby was down with the flu too last weekend...and he was complaining of the 'cardboard' cooking too :D

The soup sure looks heartwarming and comforting.

Mythreyee said...

What a lovely filling healthy soup. Looks very comforting. The sun has started showing its face now a days here.

rashmi said...

i understand what u mean by food tasting like cardboard...two weeks back i was down with flu too..oh my .....the soup looks so warm and inviting...

Maya said...

Hope you are feeling all fine now..The soup looks just rite to drive away the flu and warm up in the winter season..Very nice..

Seena said...

Get well soon..A hot pepper rasam with well cooked rice will get rid of all the cardboard taste.. :)

Revathi said...

East or West - everyone is affected by the flu.. Hold on Spring is round the corner !!

Anonymous said...

looks tempting! Should try this. Hope your winter turns warmer soon. I crib even about Bangalore cold weather which is really nothing :)

sra said...

Hope you're fine now. I love that snow picture. And red velvet seems to be a thing with NY Times - they had a red velvet choc cake sometime ago, didn't they?

Anonymous said...

I made the soup and it turned out to be great. Thanks for the recipe.


Vanamala said...

Nice recipe !!! Looks delicious

Miri said...

Sounds completely delicious....she croaked through her blocked nose...

Sia said...

hope u r feeling much better now shaheen. even both of at home were down with cold and flu for full week.
soup looks delicious. i cant think of eating anything other than bowl of soup or dal chawal.

Mallugirl said...

Happy Cook,Wish it would change the weather to warm too!!

Nupur, u are right, food and its taste makes u feel sick or well everyday. hope u are warmer there.

Kalai, thanks for the hugs..pyar ki jappi, eh?

Indo, u are way south, so hope to see spring flowers on ur blog soon.:)

Linda said...

The one thing I would miss if I moved south from New England is the changing of the seasons. It's tough to appreciate spring if you haven't had winter (and snow days for the kids). :) Hope everyone is over the flu now. This red velvet soup and the mutton soup in the next post look like just the ticket. When I was little my mom used to give us 'scotch broth' -- lamb and barley soup. Haven't tasted that in a long time and you reminded me of it -- thanks S :)

Zerin said...

your new look looks cool. I have a small suggestion to make. can you please add the links of your fellow bloggers. it was a great addition in your original blog. and i think you should replace the pic of the pomegranates.

otherwise your layout is rocking.