Weeknight Yum Yum: Moroccan Lentil Soup

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The dead of winter leaves us craving hearty and filling foods, but this doesn't mean we have to always go for the beer-cheddar soup (although delicious) or pot roasts. Lentils are not only a winter food, but also extremely low in fat and calories and very good for you. And cheap! You can whip up a hearty and healthy soup in under an hour that's perfect for that snowy day with great leftovers for lunch. My Moroccan Lentil Soup uses an easy Moroccan-inspired spice blend I developed myself years ago back east. It's spicy, sweet, smoky, savory, peppery and exotic all in one and is just perfect for soups, stews, grilled meats and braised dishes like tagine. And the blend offers all the right notes combined with fresh garlic and ginger and earthy bay leaf.

I like serving this dish piping hot with some freshly sliced jalapenos right on top, and extra lime wedges. Sometimes I also include a small dollop of cold sour cream to combat the piping hotness of the soup. And nothing goes better than a fresh French baguette to dip inside. And if I'm really feeling naughty, some crisp bacon or pancetta will go on top as well.

Moroccan Lentil Soup
1 white onion, peeled and diced small
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large bay leaf
2 Tbsp Mishy's Moroccan Spice Blend (recipe follows) + more to taste
1.5 cups brown lentils
6 cups vegetable broth or stock
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 lime cut into wedges
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil + more for garnish drizzle

Heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and carrots all at once and season with a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Saute on medium heat until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the bay leaf, moroccan spice blend, and lentils and mix to incorporate. Add the stock and using a wooden spoon, scrape up the bottom of the pan for any "bits." Bring to a boil on high heat, then cover the pot with lid and lower to medium heat, letting the soup simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

If you want a soupier soup (i.e. more liquid) then cook the lentils with the lid on; for a chunkier soup (i.e. less liquid, more lentil body) then cook the lentils with the lid off, allowing the liquid to evaporate.

Once lentils are tender (to check, simply take a bite and see), add the cilantro and mint and take the soup off the heat. Mix in. Ad this point, you can leave your lentils whole or puree some of the soup with an immersion blender to desired consistency. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with some olive oil. Garnish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and some sliced jalapeno on top, the sour cream and/or the bacon/pancetta. Serve hot.

Mishy's Moroccan Spice Blend          makes around 1/2 cup total
2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ground white pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with whisk or fork to incorporate. Store in a glass, air-tight container for up to 6 months.

No comments: