Red Lentil Soup with Zursun Lentils

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Satisfying soup for cold weather

A bag of red lentilsI love a good lentil, and when the weather is colder and darkness comes sooner, I find them particularly comforting. This great red lentil soup is ideal for quick cooking, and you can make a big pot of it and work it throughout the week!

The red lentils we have in stock come from the small firm of Zürsun in Idaho. The company was started by John and Lola Weyman to work with small family farms that grow beans in the state, all the way back in 1985, a few years after we opened the Deli. I’m a particular fan of their red lentils both because of their flavor and because they can be cooked quickly.

To make the red lentil soup, bring a couple quarts of cold water to a boil. While you’re waiting for the water to heat up, you can add two or three carrots along with three or four stalks of celery, cut into one-inch pieces. Add onion, fresh fennel, or bell pepper if you like, also cut into roughly one-inch pieces. Add a small handful of fresh, flat leaf parsley leaves. Add some sea salt to taste, a few tablespoons of good olive oil, and a couple of bay leaves. If you want to keep the soup vegan, simply simmer the water and vegetables for about ten minutes so that the vegetables start to surrender some of the flavor to the water. Alternatively, if you want to season the soup with a bit of meat, a little of the pit-smoked chicken from the Roadhouse is delectable (also cut into small chunks), as is the pulled pork. Bacon would be great as well, or you could even use a mix of all three. When the vegetables have begun to get soft, add about half a bag of the red lentils and stir. Bring the liquid back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes until the lentils soften and are cooked through. Just so you’re mentally prepared for the loss, the lentils will turn from red to brown while they’re cooking. Taste for salt, and add a bit of freshly ground black pepper. (The ever-creative Connor Valone made the good suggestion to add a bit of the Mahjoub family’s chopped preserved lemon as well!) If you stop cooking at that point, the lentils will be soft but retain a bit of their round shape. If you want to go longer, they will slowly turn into more of a purée. I like it both ways. When you’re ready to serve, you can crumble some feta at the bottom of each soup bowl, then ladle in the soup. Drizzle on a bit of extra virgin olive oil and more black pepper.

The Red Lentil Soup will keep well all week. If you like, you can use some of your leftovers as a pasta sauce. Cook up any of the great short shape pastas we have on hand, like the Mancini Mezze Maniche, the Rustichella Saragallo Wheat maccheroni, or the Gentile Vesuvio. While the pasta is cooking, gently heat some of the soup in a saucepan. Add a little of the pasta-cooking water to the soup while it’s heating up to thin it a bit. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and then add it to the soup/sauce. Toss well and then let it simmer for a few minutes so the sauce absorbs into the pasta. Add a bit more olive oil and then spoon it all into warm bowls. Dress with a small bit of extra virgin olive oil and some grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino and a good bit of red pepper flakes!