Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gentle Lentil Soup

Courtesy of Moosewood, lentil soup has been a winter staple since I started seriously cooking for myself. I think its safe to say that the Moosewood Cookbook taught me how to cook. The Gypsy Soup is seriously the base for many of the stirfrys and stews that I've made on the fly for hungry activist friends. All of the basics are covered: lasagne, chili, hummous, all kinds of other dips, from ratatouille to raita; and I've probably made all of the sweets from Ukrainian poppy seed cake to the cobblers.

The lentil soup itself is reminiscent of Amy's Place lentil soup, but doesn't have the gooey noodles. It's definitely more like a stew than a soup . . . and it is absolutely delicious with a dollop of sour cream (or seasoned yogurt), hot sauce, and chopped scallion or cilantro.

Gentle Lentil Soup

3 cups lentils, any type
7 cups water or stock (more as needed)
1 to 2 Tbl. canola oil or butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup minced celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ to 2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
a few pinches of dried herbs (thyme, oregano, or basil)
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp molasses
Red wine vinegar, minced scallions or cilantro, hot sauce, and sour cream for the top

Place the lentils and water in a crock pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and let cook until the lentils are mushy (about 45 minutes). Add more water as needed, until the soup is your favorite consistency. Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the onion, celery, and carrots, and sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, 1 tsp. salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice, and sauté about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to the lentils. Stir in the molasses. Taste to correct seasonings, then simmer for at least 15 minutes longer. Serve hot, with a little vinegar drizzled onto each serving, and a dollop of sour cream, speckles of hot sauce, and a sprinkling of minced scallions or cilantro on top, if desired.

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