A letter to Melissa Clark (Red Lentil Soup with Lemon)
Dear Melissa Clark,
Andy is obsessed with you. Today he told me that he wishes he was friends with you from birth because you are bubbly, sparkly, cute and know everything about food. Once, Andy made one of your recipes for cookie frosting, and ever since then, he had “fallen in love” with you. In our household, as soon as your name is mentioned, Andy shivers in pleasure. He is an avid follower of your articles in A Good Appetite, under the Dining & Wine section of the New York Times.
This morning, he startled me with your Red Lentil Soup with Lemon recipe that he had found from the New York Times. I made it for lunch today. Ms. Clark, you called it “bright, deep, compelling and easily accessible,” and we concur. The soup gives heat during this cold season and did something new every time Andy took a spoonful into his mouth. It made him see, hear, taste, touch everything in sheer delight. I couldn’t help but to examine Andy in sheer joy as he gulped two bowls of it.
As for me, I loved cooking and eating it. When cooking, time is really the important factor in this dish. Letting the onions and carrots soften until almost liquid in texture is a crucial step. The broth, simmering with tomato paste, cumin and chili powder, makes intricate flavors unfold into a steady mix of goodness, all glowing in a pot. I have always felt that being a great cook is allowing the ingredients to naturally dissolve amongst themselves. The result is joyfulness.
Ms. Clark, you have turned our winter day into a warm and compelling afternoon of wonder and magic. Thank you for sharing your recipe.
Recipe for Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
Time: 45 minutes
3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.
1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
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.
4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée 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.