16 March 2009

Red Lentil Soup

For years I believed that this recipe originated in Gil Marks' Olive Trees and Honey, a cookbook of traditional Jewish vegetarian recipes from around the world. But today I was leafing through Julia's copy and I realized that the only reason I had this misconception is because Olive Trees contains about 9 different red lentil soup recipes—that is to say 9 more red lentil soup recipes than can be found in any other cookbook. This recipe isn't one of those. Upon further research I have discovered that this recipe—which by the way is George's No. 1 most requested soup—was adapted from the October 2006 Vegetarian Times issue. So now you know that in addition to being a mediocre chef, I also wear the hat of a mediocre sleuth. Good thing I read all those Nancy Drew mysteries!

Some useful facts about tamarind concentrate: 1) It lasts forever in the refrigerator 2) Doug thinks that by the spoonful it's almost as good as chocolate 3) It's cheapest and best from an Indian or Asian grocer 4) I like the Tamcon brand with the red screw-on cap.

Red Lentil Soup

1 Cup red lentils / masoor dal
1 teaspoon salt
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 knob peeled and sliced ginger, about as big as half a thumb
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 ounce can coconut milk (the best kind has Thai lettering on it)
1 Tablespoon tamarind concentrate
1 Tablespoon dried coriander seed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric (don't get this on your clothes!)
fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Combine lentils, 5 Cups water, and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until tender.
2. Purée tomatoes and ginger. Set aside.
3. Purée lentils and water. Set aside.
4. In a larger pot, fry the garlic in the oil for 30 seconds until golden brown and fragrant. Add tomato mixture, coconut milk, tamarind, coriander, cumin, and turmeric. Simmer 15 minutes.
5. Add lentils. Simmer a little. Add fresh ground pepper if you like and cilantro.

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