Middle Eastern Lentil Soup To Warm the Soul
How satisfying is this vegetarian “Middle Eastern Lentil Soup”?
So much that I didn’t even catch my husband, aka Meat Boy, sneaking slices of salami afterward, as he is wont to do.
That tells you just how delicious this hearty bean and spinach soup — imbued with cumin, coriander, fennel and cayenne — really is.
The recipe is adapted by the Wall St. Journal from “The White Dog Cafe Cookbook” (Running Press, 1998). The cookbook was written by the owners of this Philadelphia restaurant, Judy Wicks and chef Kevin von Klause.
I further adapted it by using fabulous Rancho Gordo’s Black Caviar Lentils instead of the called-for French Puy lentils. If you do so, too, just know your resulting soup will be darker and less golden in color.
The recipe directions didn’t state when to add the 1/4 cup of minced garlic. So, I noted to add it half way through cooking the onions. Don’t fear the amount of garlic. It actually amounts to about 6 cloves, so it’s not excessive by any means.
This is a thick, hearty, chunky and aromatic soup with a taste that will transport you immediately to the vibrant spice markets of the Middle East.
Although you can skip the feta garnish to make this soup vegan, it really pays to add it. The salty, tangy cheese enhances everything else in the bowl and gives it even greater focus. It’s earthy, spicy, filling, and just so comforting to tuck into.
I love lentils because they cook so quickly, compared to most other beans. That means you can make this soup on the spur of the moment. After one bowl, you know you’ll be making this again and again.
Middle Eastern Lentil Soup
1 pound (2 cups) Puy lentils (or black lentils)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups diced yellow onion
1/4 cup minced garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (14-ounce) can plum tomatoes
3 cups tightly packed spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
1/2 cup chopped feta, for garnish
Place lentils in a saucepan and add water to cover by 4 inches. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving cooking liquid.
In a soup pot over medium-low heat, warm oil. Add onions and saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add garlic, and continue to saute until onions turn translucent, another 5 minutes. Add coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and cayenne, and cook over medium-high heat until spices bloom, 1 minute.
In a blender or food processor, pulse tomatoes until nearly smooth. Stir tomatoes and their juice into soup pot. Simmer to meld flavors, 5 minutes.
To the soup pot, add cooked lentils and 3 cups lentil cooking liquid, and bring to a simmer. Stir in spinach and cook until just wilted. If soup is too thick, add more lentil cooking liquid or broth or water. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, top with cilantro and chunks of feta.
Adapted from “The White Dog Cafe Cookbook” by Judy Wicks and Kevin von Klause, as published in the Wall Street Journal
More Soups to Savor: Carolyn’s Never-The-Same Veggie, Bean and Sausage Soup