Meatless Monday Recipe: Lentil Soup

My father-in-law makes the best lentil soup and it is the most basic and simplest of recipe. I couldn’t believe how simple and easy it was because the soup itself tasted much more complex. I had him demonstrate it for me one day since I refused to believe it could be so simple.

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He calls this “soffritto”, but it’s just garlic, onions and tomatoes and does not contain the more traditional ingredients such as celery, carrots and parsley.

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He fries them up until they are quite golden brown. Then, he adds them to the already boiling and just about tender lentils. He adds some chopped celery and frozen broccoli and boil until everything is tender, may be another 15 minutes. A little salt and pepper and it’s delicious.

Of course, I can’t leave his recipe alone and have to mess with it.

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I start with garlic and onion, too.

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Add some chopped tomatoes.

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Fry them up until they are tender.

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And the tomatoes have really broken down.

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Then, this is where I deviate. I add chopped celery and carrots.  Then, I add vegetable stock instead of water, the lentils and boil until just about tender if I’m adding chopped broccoli.  Add broccoli until fully done.  Or add the spinach when the soup is pretty much done.

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I think I missed taking photo of one or two of the steps. This one shows with the lentils and vegetable stock already added.

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And here is the finished product, this version contains spinach instead of the chopped broccoli. I make it both ways just for change of pace and they are both really good.

ETA: Somehow I published this without the recipe so here it is!

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Lentil Soup

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time 45 minutes – 1 hour

Serves: 8

Ingredients

olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped sweet onion
2 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, sliced into half moons or chopped
1 pound dry lentils (green or brown), picked and rinsed
2 quarts water or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
6 ounces chopped broccoli (fresh or frozen) or baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large pot, fry garlic and onions in olive oil until softened. Add tomatoes and sauté until the tomatoes start to break down and release the juice. Add celery and carrots with a little more olive oil and saute for another minute. Add the lentils, water or vegetable stock and the bay leaves and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until lentils are just about tender, about 35 minutes.  If the soup becomes too thick, add more stock or water to thin out. Remove the bay leaves.

If using broccoli, add at this time and cook another 5 – 10 minutes until broccoli is tender.

If using spinach, add when lentils are fully tender. Stir in the spinach and cook for another minute or two until all the spinach has softened.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Note:  I think another lovely substitute vegetable would be swiss chard instead broccoli or spinach, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Also, this may sound strange, but we love to eat lentil soup over plain white steamed rice, a lá Korean style or Indian style with dal.  I tend to make the soup a little thicker for that purpose.  A sprinkle of fresh grated pecorino romano cheese is a nice touch.  And finally, this soup freezes very well.  I always make the full pound of lentils so I can freeze 1/2 and use for quick dinners or lunches.

Chana and Potato Masala

This recipe is just a variation on the Easy Chana Masala recipe.  I used crushed tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes.  I left out tomato paste because I thought the starch from the potatoes would thicken the sauce sufficiently.  Everything else’s the same.

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I was little nervous whether Peanut would eat it. To be safe, I actually used half a jalapeno pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of paprika powder. Peanut loved it. I’m so lucky that both my girls are not picky eaters!

By the way, Peanut is starting to put two words together, “Want more” being one of the phrased. But for some reason, she has trouble with “More please.” Even though, she clearly knows how to say more and please individually.

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Chana and Potato Masala

Time: 15 min prep; 20 min cooking

Serves: 4

Ingredients

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seed removed, finely chopped (use green chillies if you like heat)
3 cloves of garlic, grated
1 inch piece ginger, grated
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon coriander power
1 teaspoon cumin powder
3 cups crushed tomatoes
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced small
1 cans of garbanzo (chickpeas) beans, preferably low sodium, rinsed and drained
salt to taste
handful fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions

Add olive oil to large frying pan with lid on medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add cumin seeds and fry until the seeds sizzle and pop.  Add onions and peppers and saute until the onions start to soften.

Push aside the onions and add to the center of the pan the grated ginger and garlic.  Add the spices and some salt and saute until well mixed.

Add crushed tomatoes, potatoes and beans and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer until the potatoes are tender.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in cilantro before serving.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Remember when I said I liked making a couple of new things for Thanksgiving?  Um, I changed my mind.  I haven’t been loving the new recipes.  I wanted spectacular.  I wanted something that was going to make my family say “Wow, this is great!”  I wanted something that could be added to the menu and become part of the Thanksgiving tradition.

What I have so far is an OK and “It’s not bad, Mommy.”

Not what I was going for  at all.

I’m hoping the cornbread and/or cheesecake will be a winner.  Otherwise, I’m just gonna be down, man.

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So, about these spicy roasted chickpeas.

I read so many rave reviews about roasted chickpeas.  So many!  I don’t know where I went wrong.  The chickpeas should be crunchy.  About one in ten had the required crunch.  The rest tasted aight but kind of dull without a satisfying crunch.

I looked at a few recipes and decided to adapt from one that called for curry powder.  It seemed right up my alley, kind of like a snack version of chana masala which is one of my all time favorite comfort food.

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I made the spice mix with some garam masala since I don’t have curry in my spice rack. 

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Dried the chickpeas as throughly as possible.

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Added the spices with some olive oil. Popped them in the oven for the required amount of time. Then another 5 minutes. Then another. The ding dang peas refused to crisp up!

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Looks good, no? I’m wondering if the pan on a high rack would work better.  I don’t have the energy to try again, at least not for this Thanksgiving.

I adapted from daxphillips’s Curried Chickpea Snack.  He was patient and kind enough to answer a few questions. 

Will these keep for a few days?  He’s never had any leftover to test it out, but he thought I could.  I can tell you that the crunchy ones kept and the not-so-crunchy ones weren’t great after a day.

Is there a key to getting the crunch?  He said oven temperatures can vary.  So, when I do try these again and try I will, I’ll experiment with temperature and placement.

By the way, I’m experimenting here by writing out the recipe without the bullets.  What do you think?  Better? Cleaner?  Doesn’t matter?  Opinions people kindly requested!

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Time: 5 mins prep, 30 – 40 mins cooking

Serves: 8

Ingredients

2 15 oz canned garbanzo or chickpeas, drained and rinsed well in cold water

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoon garam masala

2 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 400° F with a baking sheet in the oven.

Dry the rinsed chickpeas  on a large kitchen towel using a gentle rolling motion.  Try not to remove the skins.

In a medium bowl, mix all the spices.  Add the chickpeas and olive oil.  Gently mix until all the chickpeas are well coated with spice mixture.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the chickpeas on the sheet in a single layer.  Put back in the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes.  Give the pan a shake or two in middle of the baking to allow for more even baking.

When the chickpeas are crunchy, remove from oven.  Even if not all the chickpeas are crunchy they taste fine when served immediately.  So, serve immediately!