Dinner:  October 17, 2007

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I rarely follow a recipe to the letter. That was definitely the case last night. See, about a week ago, Mike forwarded me a recipe called “Rockstar Lentil Soup.” He had obtained the recipe during the course of an email exchange with our friend Kelly Sue, and she raved about it. I’m a big fan of lentils in any form, and this soup sounded like just the thing for a cool autumn night, so I wrote it into our meal plan for this week.

As I reviewed the original recipe, I had a few changes in mind from the start – I usually like to start soups with a base of diced vegetables sautéed in whatever fat I’m using and begin adding the seasonings to build the flavors, so I would cook the onions and garlic first rather than adding them in later. I was standing over the pot stirring my spices into the onion-garlic mixture when my phone rang, and I have to be honest, while I chatted with my folks I kind of put the rest of the soup together on auto-pilot. In the end it tasted great, but the measurements I’m going to give below might be a bit imprecise. I have no idea how my version compares to the Rockstar version, but I’ll print both recipes here – try them both and decide for yourself!

Rockstar Lentil Soup
(Kelly Sue informs me that this soup gets its name because she got the recipe from her friend Maggie Estep, who got it from Blixa Bargeld)

1 1/2 cups lentils
8 cups vegetable stock
1 large potato
2 bunches (about 1 1/2 pounds) Swiss chard
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
4 T olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (or 1/2 cup chopped parsley plus 3/4 tsp ground coriander)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 T lemon juice

Rinse lentils; sort through and discard any foreign material. Drain well.

Combine lentils and stock in an 8-quart pan; cover and bring to simmering.

Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes; add to lentils. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Slice chard leaves and stems crosswise in 1/2-inch wide strips. Add to soup, cover and continue simmering until lentils are tender (About 20 more minutes).

In a small frying pan, cook onion in oil, stirring occasionally until onion is soft and golden. Add to onion 1/3 cup of the fresh coriander (or the parsley-cumin mix) along with garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add onion mixture to soup during the last five minutes of cooking. Stir in salt to taste, pepper, cumin and lemon juice. Garnish soup with lemon slices and remaining chopped coriander or parsley-cumin mix.

Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 cup white vermouth
1 1/2 cups green lentils
6-8 cups stock (we didn’t have vegetable stock so I used the rest of our homemade chicken stock)
2 cups diced Yukon Gold potato
Sherry vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 bunch Swiss Chard, chopped into about 1 inch pieces
Juice of one lemon
Greek yogurt or crème fraiche for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and cook until softened. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin and chipotle powder and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring well. Add the vermouth and stir, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the lentils, stock, bay leaf and potato, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, stir in a couple of splashes of Sherry vinegar, cover again and cook until the lentils and potatoes are tender, about 35 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, add the chard and cook just until wilted. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and ladle into bowls, topping with a dollop of yogurt or crème fraiche.

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