Vestiges of Winter Comfort Food

Red lentil soup is more like a stew the next day. Luca opted to take it (rather than his beloved pasta or cheese-pickle-radish-tomato sandwich) for lunch today. That's a mighty fine endorsement.

Like in many other places, the weather has been unusually warm here. It finally became more reasonable with a rain followed by cooler temperatures yesterday. At last, a soup supper day.

I love soup. It typically has everything you need in it – protein often in the form of legumes, complex carbohydrates like bulgur wheat, a little fat and an assortment of veggies. I think there used to be a Campbell’s commercial that proclaimed “Soup is good food.” There isn’t any Campbell’s around here though. I make two soups that receive a consistent A rating from the family – red lentil and tomato.

Red Lentil, Bulgur and Mint Soup was on the menu yesterday. I came home from work and had a fragrant pot simmering on the cook top half an hour later. The first thing Luca said when he walked in the door from school was, “What smells so good?” Red lentils are a favorite of mine. Because they soften considerably, they are best in soups and curries. Their flavor is wonderful – rich and peppery. Red lentils may not be available in standard grocery stores, but you can find them at natural food stores and international groceries. I serve this soup with a prepared flat bread like naan on the side. I hope you have a chance to try this before things get hot again.

Red Lentil, Bulgur and Mint Soup

adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium Spanish onion, finely diced (3/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium tomato finely chopped (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons paprika (I do a mix of sweet and smoked: 1-1/2 tablespoons sweet and 1/2 tablespoon smoked)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
or ground red pepper
1-1/2 cups red lentils
1/4 cup basmati rice
6 cups vegetable stock or water (I use water mixed with 1 teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon)
1/4 cup fine-grain bulgur
1 tablespoon dried mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges to serve

In a heavy medium-size saucepan, heat the olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for about 2 minutes, or until they’re softened but not brown. Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato, paprika, and Turkish pepper. Saute for about 1 minute until spices are fragrant. Add the lentils, rice, and stock. Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and the lentils have blended with the stock. Add the bulgur and mint, and season with salt and pepper. Make sure you season well. I usually add about 3/4 teaspoon sea salt at this stage. If you don’t, the soup will be boring and bland. Keep tasting and seasoning until you can taste the peppery bite of the red lentils. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup is too thick, add a little water.

Serve at once with lemon wedges and warm flat bread for dipping.

Note: I have successfully added little, roasted cauliflower florets to this soup for some cruciferous goodness . . . about 1 cup, maybe a little more, at the end of the cooking process.


Me:  N/A (Forward bends and back bends at yoga. This is another reason I like soup – most is great to make ahead.)

Scott:  A

Luca:  A

Alia:   A (Finally, a A from Alia)