Red lentil soup with a hint of heat

Red lentil soup gets extra flavor from spicy chili paste and the bright notes of lemon.

The Garden of Eating
Dried red lentils are an excellent pantry stable to keep on hand. The lentils cook up fast for this delicious and spicy soup.

This soup was inspired by Melissa Clark's lovely recipe in The New York Times dining section a few weeks ago. The combination of the delicate yet hearty red lentils (so pretty!), bright lemon, and spicy chili is addictive. And it’s also easy to make, cheap, and unquestionably good for you.

Lentils are a particularly good source of dietary fiber, protein, folate and iron and also high in potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K. They are also tasty, versatile, and very affordable. What’s not to love? You to begin by sautéing onion, garlic, chili, tomato paste and cumin powder to create a wonderfully flavorful base for the soup. I used sambal oelek chili paste rather than chili powder or cayenne because I like the complexity it adds but any chili will do.

Then just add the stock, lentils, and carrots then simmer for about half an hour or until the lentils are soft.

Then puree half the soup to create a nice texture that is part smooth and part chunky. I’ve said it many times but the immersion blender is one of the five best kitchen tools ever invented! I would probably never puree anything without it because I consider pouring hot soups and sauces into a blender a huge pain with a high potential for burning myself not to mention cleaning said blender afterwards. No, thank you!

A little lemon juice brightens all the flavors in this soup. I still had a few Meyer lemons left from our recent trip to northern California (we grabbed a handful of beauties from the prolific lemon bush at our old place on Josephine Street) and it added a lovely floral note. But regular lemon will work perfectly, too.

Make enough to enjoy for several meals (or to freeze) as the flavors will just improve with time.  If you are a vegetarian or vegan, simply use vegetable stock and skip the sour cream or yogurt. Enjoy!

Red Lentil Soup with Chili Paste & Meyer Lemon
(Adapted from The New York Times)
Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons organic olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste or 1/4 teaspoon ground chili powder (if you like things hot, use more!)
1-1/2 quarts stock (vegetable or chicken – it's good both ways)
1 cup red lentils
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon (Meyer or regular)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and then add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring often for about 4 minutes. Then stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili paste or powder and sauté for another few minutes, stirring once or twice.

2. Add the broth, lentils and carrots and bring to a simmer, then cover and turn the heat down to low and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes.

3. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender of food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender), purée half the soup and return to the pot.

4. Stir in the lemon juice and the fresh herbs and serve with a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of yogurt or sour cream on top.

Related post on The Garden of Eating: Curried Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew

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