Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spicy Lentil Soup

The past year has been a whirlwind of activity that has kept me happily tied to my kitchen, developing recipes and just plain cooking for family and friends. It’s also been a year heavily consumed by the planning of a wedding; a great celebration that took place just more than a week ago… and one that completely grabbed my time and complete attention the entire month of September (in a great way).  With our oldest daughter happily wed, we returned home to host family staying on after the big day… presenting a great opportunity to head out to one of our favorite destinations: Hood River and lunch at Celilo Restaurant.

On this particular visit we all had the Spicy Lentil Soup. When I asked our server what created the “spice” in this particular soup she said it was made with onion, carrot and celery.  Hmmm. I needed another approach. I said the soup sounded delicious and asked if she knew if there were any chili peppers in the soup… to which she said she’d ask the chef for more details. Bingo. She came back with there’s cumin and a little cinnamon. Not exactly a treasure trove of information but enough when combined with a taste test. I think this might be my favorite lentil soup… for the moment. I love that little add of cinnamon… so unexpected and not necessarily discernable… but I truly believe in those pinches of flavor that add a subtle, yet important note to the end result. I can’t recall if there were any peppers in the Celilo soup but I added both roasted piquillos and sweet red peppers (from jars) and found they add a perfect little pop of flavor and subtle heat.

This is really a very simple lentil soup that is built upon a good sauté of veggies and a combination of dried spices that add that discernable “spice” to the soup’s name… along with that onion, carrot and celery!

Spicy Lentil Soup
Inspired by the Spicy Lentil Soup served at Celilo Restaurant in Hood River, OR
Makes approximately 6 to 8 cups

To mimic the size of the lentils in this soup, dice veggies to an approximate ¼” to 3/8” size. Serve with some hearty French bread and a leafy green salad for a light dinner or generous lunch.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion (about ½ large onion)
1 cup diced carrot (about 1 large carrot)
¾ cup diced celery (about 2 medium stalks)
1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
½ tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground tumeric
¼ cup diced roasted piquillo peppers (from jar – about 2 peppers)
½ cup diced roasted sweet red pepper (from jar – about 2 peppers)
1 ½ cups brown lentils (rinsed and drained)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
32 ounces broth (chicken or vegetable; I used Imagine No Chicken Broth)
2 to 2 ½ cups water
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and celery to pot and sauté for about 10-12 minutes; until onion is translucent and carrot softens but still has a bite. Add spices (cumin through turmeric) and heat through with vegetables; about 1 to 2 minutes. Add peppers to pot, sautéing for another minute or two. Add lentils and season with kosher salt and pepper. Add broth, red wine vinegar and 2 cups water. Simmer soup over medium to medium low heat for approximately 45 minutes, until lentils have cooked through. Add additional ½  cup water if soup needs thinning. 

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