Sunday, February 9, 2014

Curried Lentil Soup

I'm lazy when it comes to beans, even though they're a staple of my diet. Yes, I could buy an entire pound of dried beans for just a couple dollars, but that requires planning to soak them overnight and setting aside few hours to cook, portion, and freeze a big batch when I'm usually just looking to throw a handful on a salad or in a wrap. I end up biting the bullet and spending the same for a can that I could for an entire pound, all the while thinking it is the less economical and healthy option. But with lentils there's no planning ahead required, as these dried legumes transform from crunchy discs to tender flavor sponges in less than half an hour, the perfect choice for a quick and hearty vegetarian dinner.

Lentils may get a bit of bad wrap for being bland hippie food, but they are an eager canvas for all manner of different flavors like the wonderful sweet and savory spice blend of curry powder. Chickpea puree makes the soup thick and rich with the yogurt adding the perfect creamy, acidic accent. A sprinkling of scallions is just the fresh touch  this soup needs, and, at least for me, it's not quite finished without a little bit of het (I especially like chipotle Tabasco sauce here). Add a salad and piece of naan or pita for a complete dinner or serve over brown rice or quinoa for an even heartier bowl of comfort.

Curried Lentil Soup
adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder
1 cup French green lentils
4 1/4 cups (or more) water, divided
1 15- to 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 green onions, thinly sliced, for serving (optional)
Yogurt, sour cream, or creme fraiche, for serving (optional)
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges, for serving (optional)

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils and 4 cups water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in processor.

3. Add chickpea puree and butter to lentil soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired. Add water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency. DO AHEAD: soup can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Rewarm before continuing.

4. Divide soup among bowls. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions and yogurt and a squeeze of fresh lemon, if desired.

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