This week's episode of No Reservations got me hankering for something exotic. Anthony Bourdain was wandering all over Istanbul eating everything in sight. The one dish that really caught my eye was part of a home-cooked meal; baked artichoke hearts with peas and fava bean puree. Wow.
As I generally do after watching one of his shows, I wandered over to my cookbooks and scanned around for further inspiration. This time I immediately gravitated towards Paula Wolfert, someone I consider a high priestess of Meditteranian cookbook writers. Her meticulous research and devotion to authenticity always provides interesting reading. The two books of hers that I own (Mediterranean Cooking and The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen) did not have the recipe I was looking for, but I got distracted by her Turkish Red Lentil Soup.
Dried Red lentils are so pretty AND they are easy to cook. Too bad they lose their pert orange color; when cooked and tender they turn a pale yellow.
The soup recipe sounded easy to make so I gave it a try. The procedure was basically just cooking onions, garlic, red lentils and rice in water till softened. The unusal part of the recipe is that as a finishing touch Wolfert has you create a roux from butter and flour, cooking until it is "hazelnut brown" in color and then adding stock to it before adding this to the soup. This was an unfamiliar technique for me as far as soups go, so I was excited to try it. Leave plenty of time to cook the roux, if you try this. I cooked mine on the lowest heat for about 45 minutes, which was as long as it took for the lentils to cook.
The other intriguing finish was a SIZZLE created by melting butter and then briefly sauting paprika and dried mint and then stirring that into the soup as a garnish.
tada!Well, the soup came out great, very smooth and creamy, almost too smooth, I think. I would probably only puree half the ingredients next time and leave some texture. The flavor was surprisingly exotic and unfamiliar considering the simple ingredients. I really felt like I was tasting something different. What a nice treat, and I did not have to leave home!
Turkish Red Lentil Soup
adapted from Paula Wolfert's The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen
For the Soup:
1/3 cup grated onion (one small onion)
1 clove of garlic, mashed
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
2 Tbs white rice
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 quarts water
For the Roux:
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
2 cups vegetable stock
For the SIZZLE:
1 Tbs. butter
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried mint, pressed through a sieve to make a powder
To make the soup- In a large soup pot, saute the onion and garlic in the butter for 5 minutes, till golden. Add the lentils, rice, tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. Cover pot and lower flame to a simmer, cook for 45 minutes.
MEANWHILE- to make the roux- In a small sauce pan melt the butter, then add the flour and whisk to combine so there are no lumps. Slowly heat the mixture under a VERY low flame and stir from time to time. The roux will gradually take on a warm golden color. Wolfert says go for a hazelnut brown, which took me about 45 minutes to achieve. Slowly add in the stock, whisking to prevent lumps. Cook for 5 minutes.
Back to the soup- Transfer half the soup with a slotted spoon to a food processor or blender and the other half to a clean pot. Don't add all the liquid, you wont need it, remember you are going to be adding two more cups of the roux liquid into this. Blend the soup until it is very smooth and add it to the pot with the unblended half. Add the roux liquid to the soup pot and warm everything together for 5 minutes on a low heat.
Make the SIZZLE: In a very small pot, melt the butter and add the paprika and the mint. Cook for 5 minutes and then drizzle the sizzle into the finished soup.