Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cooking with cumin

For dinner this week I decided to try a new recipe: Curried Lentil and Spinach Soup. I got it years ago from Epicurious. (Does anyone still use that site?) Here is my version:

Ingredients: • 2 tablespoons olive oil • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion • 1 cup chopped celery • 1 cup chopped peeled carrots • 3 garlic cloves, minced • 1 tablespoon curry powder (preferably Madras-style) • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger • 1 teaspoon ground cumin • 1 bay leaf • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper • 8 cups (or more) water • 1 16-ounce bag dried lentils (about 2 1/2 cups) • 1 6-ounce bag baby spinach leaves  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add next 4 ingredients (onion, celery, carrots, cloves); sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in curry powder, ginger, cumin, bay leaf, and dried crushed red pepper. Add water and dried lentils; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until lentils are tender, adding more water by 1/2 cupfuls to thin soup, if desired, about 25 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill soup uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm soup over medium heat, thinning with water if desired before serving.) Ladle soup into bowls. Top each serving with a spoonful of yogurt and a handful of baby spinach.

Personalized place mats and candle by niece KH (Cincinnati, OH).
His and Hers beaded napkin rings by KF (Dresden, GER). Not sold in stores.

I went ahead and used both the curry powder and red pepper (in my case Turkish chili powder). The yogurt and spinach thicken the soup and temper some of the spiciness. I think the recipe could use a little tweaking: I found the lentils undercooked and the vegetables overcooked. Next time I will add the carrot and celery toward the end of the process, after the lentils have mostly softened. And I will add more cumin. You can always add more cumin. Pairs well with crusty bread + spread for you vegans, or crackers and cheese for you vegetarians. I imagine you could go carnivorous with the addition of some sausage.

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