Golden Lentil Soup and Developing My Palate
It’s been years since I first discovered my favorite restaurant. I think I mentioned this before. I loved the food at first bite. I loved the atmosphere and the people. Almost Always, when it is my turn to choose my choice would be Zov’s. I would try to get people to eat there with me. Seems I have two different sets of friends, Mediterranean and TexMex.
I did not invite just anyone; just those I thought would really appreciate the food as much as I did. I simply love the Mediterranean diet. I like the freshness of the herbs and the depth of flavor of the spices. I love pretty much all about it. One of my favorites is their signature soup, Golden Lentil Soup.
I remember eating my first bowl of golden lentil soup. Oh my, it tasted like I had found home. How could that be? I am not from the Mideast, but rather the Midwest. It was both strange and delicious. As red lentils cook they turn this beautiful golden color. It is almost like magic. Besides turning golden they break down into a thick soup that looks like it has been puréed that is so comforting it is like coming home. It also has a dash of cumin. I find it a strange spice, but used correctly it gives a warmth to the soup.
I took a friend there for lunch. We ordered the soup and sandwiches. She picked at the soup, and made strange faces like she had bit into a lemon. By now I was cringing a little. The owner and staff always pay special attention to their patrons and make their way around to the each table to check on us to see if we are enjoying the food and having an enjoyable experience. So I feared they would pick up on her reaction.
I was very apprehensive because I protect this place. I do not want anyone ruining my place. She was very quiet when we left and I was thinking that is the last time we are going there. Then about a month later she came to me and ask could we please go back to that place that serves that good soup? What? I thought you thought it tasted strange, funny tasting. I asked why would you want to go there since the food was so “funny tasting”? She said she was not sure, but she really wanted some of that soup. So we went and she had nothing but a satisfied smile on her face when we left. Ahh, another convert. Since then she too has learned to make it and it has become a favorite, it was just something she had never experienced before.
To be fair it made me think of my first visit to California and the first time I had tasted guacamole. I remember thinking what is the deal with this? To me it tasted rather bland, fatty, and uninteresting. About six weeks later I called my sister for a quick tutorial on how to buy an avocado. I told her I was really craving some guac. I did not call it guac at that time, but since then I have developed my palate much like my friend.
I hope you will give it a try. It is one of the most economical soups you can make. I think the lentils are about $1.89 for a pound bag – cheaper if you buy in the bulk aisle – I have seen them for as little as $.59 a pound. I had the spices and the mirepoix – if you cook I am sure they are in your pantry/vegetable bin. I have tried it with both chicken broth and just water and personally I think it is better with water. You end up with about 14 cups of soup. You can freeze it in portions depending on your needs. I suggest a piece of wax paper between soup and lid. It seems to keep it from freezer-burn.
Thank you Zov. You make me feel like I can cook.
Oh, and don’t be deterred by a food you find different. Give it a second try and you just might develop your palate. I have another friend who made it and she said it did not taste like the restaurant. I asked did she follow the recipe; then she confessed she forgot the salt. Salted and problem solved.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces – I cut mine smaller.
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces – I cut mine smaller.
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 pound dried red lentils
- ¼ cup long-grain white rice
- 12 cups water
- 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
- 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
- 1½ teaspoons ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- Italian parsley sprigs, for garnish
- Mise en place ~ Gather Ingredients
- Heat the oil in a stockpot that will hold over 16 cups, over medium-high heat.
- Add the celery, carrots, and onions – also known as mirepoix.
- Sauté about 10 minutes or until the mirepoix is soft and fragrant.
- Stir in the lentils and rice and 12 cups water.
- Cover and bring to a boil; reduce to simmer.
- Cover and simmer until the lentils are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. They will become golden and almost look puréed.
- Stir in the lemon pepper, seasoned salt, salt, black pepper, and cumin.
- Simmer uncovered until the flavors blend, the lentils have fallen apart, and the mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice.
- Taste and adjust seasoning - this is an important step.
- Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with Italian parsley sprigs.
As an alternative or variation to the soup, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy small saucepan until it begins to foam, then stir in a teaspoon or so of dried mint. Pour the mint mixture into the lentil soup just before serving. It is delicious!
Be careful with the cumin; some people are allergic to it. It also lends very strong flavor and assertive taste, so add it a little at a time, tasting as you go.
You may also want to adjust the pepper since some commented that they thought it is too much. Please feel free to adjust per your personal taste.
The soup keeps well in the refrigerator for 3 days, or frozen. It actually becomes more flavorful if it's prepared a day in advance and refrigerated.
Rewarm it over medium heat, adding more water to thin it to a desired consistency.
Serves 10 to 12
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