Friday, April 1, 2011

Cupboard Cleanout: coconut red lentil soup

This is one of a series of Cupboard Cleanout posts dedicated to using up those odds and ends we all have laying about the pantry. It's a pantry liquidation sale— everything must go!

No, this is not an April Fool's Day prank. I am fully aware that this is a lentil soup. And I know that it is thick, and comforting, and reminiscent of winter. But I hope that those of you in warmer corners of the world will indulge me, because Mother Nature is playing a cruel joke on us Nor'easterners today, and the day just calls for something like this. And I hope you won't immediately dismiss this soup based on my poor seasonal timing, because it is, to sum up, satisfaction in a bowl.

This soup's dingy yellow color will never appropriately convey to you the level of deliciousness contained within. Honestly, I have rarely been this surprised by the taste of something coming out of my own kitchen― I cooked it with my own two hands, I knew what went into it, and yet, this soup woke me up as abruptly and completely as the snowplows did this morning. The eye contradicts the tongue. It is an eternal paradox. 

Soup can't melt the snow outside, but it can put a smile on my face.

Coconut Red Lentil Soup
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Heidi Swanson via 101 Cookbooks

1 pound red split lentils
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
8 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1½ tablespoons curry powder
½ teaspoon cayenne
7 cups vegetable broth or water
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
Juice of ½ lime

1. Rinse the lentils in a colander, and pick out any stones or bad lentils.

2. Melt the butter in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the carrot. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until carrot darkens slightly, then add half of the scallions, the tomato paste, and ginger. Stir together until the scallions have wilted.

3. Add the tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Stir in the lentils and water or stock. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a small dry skillet or saucepan over low heat, toast the curry powder and cayenne for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Be vigilant here: you don't want to burn the spices, just toast them. Set them aside, off heat.

5. Stir in the salt, coconut milk, and curry powder and cayenne, then continue to simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 30 minutes, until the lentils have fallen apart and the soup is thick.

6. Stir in the lime juice and pureƩ with an immersion blender, if desired. Garnish with the remaining scallions and serve hot.

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