Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Lentil Soup

I have been trying to make a weekly soup. It is an easy way to use seasonal vegetables as well as have leftovers throughout the week. I came across this curried lentil and sweet potato recipe in The New York Times in the fall, when I was trying to use up the swiss chard I got from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group. Click here for original recipe.

The lentil soup is thick and delicious alone, but is also good with a side of rice. It is definitely an earthy soup that is packed with so much nutrition. Lentils (Lens culinaris - meaning lens-shaped seed) are a wonderful legume, people have been eating them for over 10,000 years according to Aliza Green in Starting With Ingredients. Lentils are packed with protein (about 25%) and they are high in iron, so it is perfect for a vegetarian diet. There is no need to soak lentils beforehand, they cook in about 30-45 minutes. Just make sure you rinse them until the water runs clear and and you discard any broken lentils or dirt. There are many varieties, but I used the highly regarded French lentil as well as the more common brown lentil. For more information about lentils, click here.

The prep time is a little lengthy, but if you have a helper to cut the veggies, the soup will take half the time.

Here are the ingredients for the soup that serves 6-8:
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 medium onion, chopped
-2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled if desired (I don't mind the skin) an cut into 1/2 cubes
-1 1/2 cups dried lentils (whatever you have around, I used a combination)
-1 jalapeno, minced and seeded if desired
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
-1 pound of Swiss chard, ribs removed and leaves sliced thinly
-1 bay leaf
-1 1/2 teaspoon gram masala
-1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
-1 teaspoon kosher salt
-1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
-4 to 5 cups vegetable broth as needed (I used Better Than Bouillon)
-Zest of 1 lime
-Juice of 1/2 a lime
-1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
-tamari almonds, thinly sliced for garnish (I toasted some sliced almonds)
-1/4 cup scallions for garnish

To begin, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot. Meanwhile, chop the onions and add to the pot. Saute until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Chop sweet potatoes, garlic, and jalapeno. Peel and grate ginger.
Add garlic, jalapeno, ginger, gram masala, and curry powder to pot. Stir for about 1 minute.
Add 4 cups vegetable broth, bay leaf, lentils, and sweet potatoes to the pot. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and partially cover pot. Let simmer for about 25 minutes. If lentils seem dry add more broth (I added more to mine).
Prepare the Swiss chard, then stir in with salt and pepper. Cook for 10-15 more minutes, or until lentils are tender and chard is cooked.
While the soup is cooking, toast almonds in a saute pan at a low heat. Keep your eye on them and toss or stir frequently - they will burn when you least expect it. Zest the lime and chop the cilantro and scallions.
When soup is ready to serve, stir in cilantro, lime juice and zest.
Garnish with scallions and almonds if desired and then enjoy!

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