Red Lentil Soup with Crispy Ginger

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This is another recipe I found recently in my big binder of "must try someday" recipes. I love lentils, but I kind of forget about them. Growing up, my parents made a great lentil salad. They cut up a bunch of toppings, and each of us got to customize our plates with tomatoes, parsley, bell peppers, olive oil, etc. It was fun.

But, back to the soup. A few things in the recipe caught my attention -- the spices and use of ginger. I love curry powder in soups, and frying ginger (for the topping) sounded interesting. The original recipe came from Martha Steward's Everyday Food, and I made only a couple of changes. I increased the spices and served it with a dollop of sour cream instead of yogurt. I would also recommend cooking this down, without the lid, after pureeing. The soup thickened, and the flavors really developed after an additional 30 minutes. If you don't have time to cook it down, use less water.
Red Lentil Soup with Crispy Ginger
Original recipe from Everyday Food
Serves 6 

For the Soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (3-inch piece)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (I used more)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (I used more)
2 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
4 cups water (use less unless you have time to cook it down)
1 dried bay leaf
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt, for serving (or sour cream)

For the Fried Ginger:
2 teaspoons canola or peanut oil
1 piece (about 5 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin strips (about 1/8 by 2 inches)
1) In a large, heavy-bottom pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, and curry powder; cook, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pot with a wooden spoon, until onion is soft and light golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and add tomatoes. Cook about 5 minutes.
2) Stir lentils, chicken stock, the water, and bay leaf into pot; raise heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add salt; season with pepper. Remove from heat. Let stand about 10 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, make fried ginger: In a medium saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add ginger in a single layer; cook, stirring constantly, until strips begin to turn crisp and deep golden, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain. Keep warm until ready to serve.
4) Remove bay leaf from pot, and discard. Using an immersion or regular blender, puree soup until completely smooth. Return soup to low heat until warmed through.
5) Bring soup back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for another 20-30 minutes
6) Garnish each bowl with yogurt/sour cream and ginger strips and serve.

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