I’ve had lentil soup on my mind for quite a while. It’s been at least a few weeks since I’ve made soup, and even longer since I’ve cooked with lentils. But, last weekend, as the temperatures in New York dipped into the teens (brrr…much too cold for my liking), it seemed like the perfect time to warm up with a big pot of red lentil soup.
I’m often asked where I find inspiration for the recipes I put together and the food I cook. The short answer is that I find it everywhere, and from everyday things. I get inspiration from traveling, walking around the Greenmarket (seasonal produce is huge for me), upcoming holidays, finding fun new props, the sights and smells of everything around me and of course from childhood memories.
I’m not always looking for inspiration, and honestly I think I’m a lot more inspired when I’m not looking for it or actively thinking about it. Last year sometime I started carrying around a small pink notebook which I’m constantly scribbling ideas in – ideas for recipes, ingredients I want to use, plating & styling ideas, new ideas for props…and the list goes on. I also have a bunch of notes (which I thankfully just organized) and my posting schedule on my iPhone.
Last week I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, and part of it was spent discussing the health benefits of turmeric. Inspiration! And, my idea for Spiced Red Lentil Soup was set in motion. I pulled out the pink notebook and started jotting down my ingredient list.
The end result was just as I had envisioned, a thick, hearty puree of red lentils with layered flavors of turmeric and cumin, and a hint of chili and cayenne that hit your palate at the very end of each spoonful. Top with a dollop of tangy Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro for a cool contrast.
Spiced Red Lentil Soup
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled & diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups red lentils
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cup water
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
fresh ground pepper
cilantro, chopped, for garnish
In a large Dutch oven, or heavy bottomed pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and spices* and season with 1 teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper. Mix together and cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in lentils, stock and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Stir in Greek yogurt. Puree soup with an immersion blender, or in a traditional blender, working in batches, if necessary.
Ladle soup into bowl, top with a dollop of Greek yogurt & fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.
* Adding spices & seasoning at the beginning of cooking allows the flavors to develop more than adding them when your dish is complete.