Monday, May 23, 2011

recipe: red lentil soup with lemon

I just ladled seconds of this soup for myself. And I may very well have thirds. It is insanely delicious. The ingredients are simple. The steps are easy. The results are hearty. Served over rice, you’d have a complete protein.  The recipe comes from Melissa Clark’s  In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, which we worked our way through this past winter. There really are no clunkers in this cookbook, just lots of healthy, soul-satisfying dishes. I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly. After my friend Caryl told me she doesn’t puree the soup. I’ve stopped pureeing as well, which suits me fine because I prefer soups with chunks substance, something that resembles a meal more than a meal starter. This time I swapped out the cayenne for 1 tsp. of harissa, the potent Moroccan red pepper paste, which gave a deeper, but not overpowering, heat. Don’t skimp on the lemon. Its acidity and brightness transform a basic lentil soup into something magic.

adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite (Melissa Clark, 2010)

Serves 6

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional good oil for drizzling
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon harissa (perhaps rooster sauce would also work)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups red lentils
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, mint, or parsley (I prefer cilantro)

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and harissa, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

3. Add the broth, 2 cups water, the lentils, and the carrots. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover the pot and turn the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

4. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, mint, or parsley. Serve the soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted very lightly with chili powder, if desired.

OPTIONAL: Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, puree half the soup (it should be somewhat chunky, not smooth).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Trade Joe's Lemon Heart Cookies

I just ate (nearly) an entire bag of cookies by myself.

I’m not a huge fan of Trader Joe’s because the food is, by and large, processed. I especially dislike that Trader Joe’s, through the use of super-slick marketing, attempts to make their processed food appear natural or healthy. Nonetheless, from time to time, I like to see what’s new at TJ’s, and on a recent visit, Lemon Heart Cookies seduced me. The package promised “delicately texture cookies with a hint of almond flavor and a light lemon icing.” And dang, I have to admit that those hearts were delicious even if they weren’t necessarily delicate. The texture is actually somewhat hearty, not as twice-baked hard as biscotti nor as buttery as shortbread. But they were dense and nutty from ground almonds. The lemon icing was perfectly tangy and crispy.

Even if it becomes my life mission, I am determined to hack these cookies at home.

(Disclaimer: I would like to give credit where credit is due to the photos I borrowed. However, I can no longer find either on a google image search. Apologies.)