Just as, as a quarter-lifer, you start to invent your own traditions (Friendsgiving, Sunday Night Pasta, Latkes for Two), I think as I’ve grown up, I’ve reinvented my own comfort foods, too.
Lentils have fought and won for a spot on my comfort food list as my twenties have advanced. On cold nights, or cold rainy nights like the ones we’ve been having, a bowl of lentil soup steaming beside grilled bread or cheesy pita croutons satisfies both Alex and me like little else. Even the creamy pastas that had long been my go-to’s.
Because I’ve been cooking a lot of lentils recently, in my exploration of Middle Eastern cuisine for Sargento, I wanted to take the chance to share a lentil-cooking technique that might help make this healthful, cheap bean, a staple of the region, one of your comfort foods too.
Recently, I read an interview with Isa Chandra Moskowitz, one of my favorite vegetarian cookbook writers, over on TheKitchn. She mentioned that, in order to always have dinner at home be a distinct possibility, she pretty much always had some kind of bean or grain soaking, cutting down on dinner prep time. Before I read that, I had never soaked lentils, since they cook so quickly (especially the tiny red ones). But the last few times I’ve made a lentil soup, like the vegetable-rich, curry-flavored one in this post, or stewed a pot of braised lentils, I’ve started the legumes soaking in the morning.
A soak also takes the guesswork out of lentil cooking, since pretty much any lentil will cook up in 30 minutes, rather than the hour it can sometimes take if your bean has been sitting on the shelves (yours or the supermarket’s) for a long time.
This particular soup is one of the best lentil soups I’ve ever had: rich with coconut milk, redolent with curry and ginger, and laden with celery, ginger, and tomatoes. If you’re looking for something light and vegetarian to cook this weekend or for the week ahead, you’ll find this healthy, warming soup an excellent candidate.
This sponsored post is part of an ongoing collaboration with Sargento, called Flavor Journey. Throughout the year, with the support of Sargento, I’m exploring Middle Eastern cuisine–at home, in Brooklyn, at cooking classes, and wherever the flavors may take me. You can see the whole series here. Sponsored posts let me do some of my best work on this blog, and I only ever work with brands whose values and products mesh with the content I love to produce for you. Here’s my affiliate disclosure.
Curried Lentil Soup with Yogurt
If you’ve soaked your lentils, start with 4 cups of water instead of 6 and add more as the soup cooks, as needed. Cut down the first cooking time to 20-25 minutes, then follow the recipe again from there.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large red or yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
One ½-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh curry powder
½ teaspoon cumin
1 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed
One 14-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes
6 cups water
1 cup coconut milk (not low fat)
Juice of 1 lime
Plain yogurt for garnish
Cilantro leaves for garnish
Over medium heat, warm the oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid. Add the onion and celery, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add about ½ teaspoon salt and the curry powder and stir to toast for 1 minute. Throw in the lentils, tomatoes, water, and a big pinch of salt. Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat back down to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the soup is thickened and the lentils are soft, about 35 minutes. Add the coconut milk and juice of half the lime and cook another 5 to 10 minutes. If the soup gets thick, add some more water. You can also taste for salt as you go and add more as needed – the soup will need a decent amount.
When the lentils are done, squeeze in the second half of the lime juice. Ladle into bowls to serve and garnish with the yogurt and the cilantro leaves.
Store leftovers in the fridge for a couple days. The soup will thicken as it cools, so add water by the 1/4 cup when you reheat.
Photos by Carly Diaz