My husband and I met a friend downtown last Friday for drinks. I’m not high maintenance by most standards, but it took me about 40 minutes and two outfit changes to switch over from teacher-mode to going out mode. The mister, on the other hand, showered, shaved, chose a button up shirt and jeans, and carefully mussed his hair in less than 15. He was sitting on the couch playing Angry Birds long before I emerged from the bedroom to ask him which shoes looked better.
My male counterpart is usually known around here by pseudonyms like Mr. Medium Rare, The Hubs and my favorite taste tester. You may be surprised to know that he has a real name. Meet Peder; 6 foot 4, blue-eyed and amiable, the keeper of both random and highly useful knowledge. Equal parts logical and creative, stubbly and polished. Peder has good kitchen sense, but cooks only occasionally. He rarely reads cookbooks or browses food sites, and chooses recipes like he shops–thinks, decides, procures, purchases, and goes home to move onto more important things. And the most endearingly annoying part? Every recipe he chooses is pure gold.
If you have been to my house in the past 3 months, you have undoubtedly heard about “the” Moroccan lentil soup. You know, the one we mention every time the topic of food comes up (which is pretty frequently around here). You may have even tried it, one of the ten times we have made it recently, at a school staff potluck, or a last minute dinner get-together.
I’d love to take credit for finding such a fantastic recipe. After all, I read cookbooks like it’s my part time job. I luxuriate in the glossy pages, and bookmark potentials with neon sticky notes. I check Tastespotting on a daily basis, just to see what catches my eye. The problem is, I’m easily distractable…Um, what were we talking about again? Oh, right.
It goes something like this: I go to my massive shelf of cookbooks and pull out the Native Foods cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Home Cooking, and the latest issue of Bon Appetit. Halfway through the sandwich chapter of my Native Foods cookbook, I remember my favorite portobello burger. A good possibility…I move on to Madhur Jaffrey. Before I can flip past the foreword, I remember a recipe I had bookmarked on Indian Simmer. After deciding that the Malai Kofta would have to wait for another day, I head on over to another one of my favorite food blogs, Use Real Butter. Oh, look, I can make ice cream using only bananas! Hey Peder–I can make ice cream using only bananas! You get the picture.
One day, three months ago, Peder decided to make lentil soup for dinner. After a quick google search, he discovered this recipe buried deep in the comments section of another recipe (we later found the recipe in The Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss). He gathered the ingredients, mostly pantry staples. It took him 20 minutes to chop and saute the onions and garlic with heaped spoonfuls of aromatic spices. He added the red lentils, broth, and crushed tomatoes, and poured everything into the slow cooker. 6 hours later, something magical emerged. The lentils were soft, but still toothsome, like perfectly cooked al dente pasta. The broth had a layered complexity and was scented with turmeric, coriander, and a hint of cinnamon. A couple pulses of the immersion blender thickened the broth slightly, turning the soup from light to medium-bodied. A squeeze of lemon and some parsley and cilantro stirred in at the end woke up all the flavors and tied them all together.
At first, I was a little jealous that I didn’t find this fantastic recipe on my own. Then…I tasted a spoonful, and thought, a girl could really get used to this!
Moroccan Lentil Soup
Adapted from The Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 heaped teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 heaped teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 3/4 teaspoons paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)
- 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt (to begin with), then to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 7 cups vegetable broth
- 1 24-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
- a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- juice of 1 lemon
- a small splash of red wine vinegar (about 1/2 tablespoon)
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, and allspice. Cook for another minute or two, stirring to coat the onions. Add the broth, tomatoes and salt, and bring to a boil. Pour into a slow cooker, and stir in the lentils. Cook for 4 to 5 hours on high, or 6-8 hours on low, or until the lentils are tender.
Stir in the lemon juice, a small splash of red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, cilantro, and parsley. Season to taste again with kosher salt. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.