Today almost turned into a bad eating day. I've been pretty restrained this week (ok, so it's only Tuesday, sue me), but I didn't want to start down the takeout path until, well, at least Thursday, since we are definitely going out Friday (to Flushing! Whee!!). BUT. I've been less than diligent lately about keeping food in the house.*
Also, lately, nothing has been looking good to make. This is SO frustrating. It is hands down one of the most irritating feelings, to know that you have a massive cookbook collection that has almost bankrupted your at some point in your life, and also a large binder that is more or less organized by category full of ripped out recipes to try, only to realize that it's no good. Nothing looks tasty. I'm sure it has something to do with the change of the season. The daylight is shorter, there's a definite chill in the air, and everyone I know has gone into light deprivation sleepiness.
So I moped. And moped. And looked at a few take out menus. Peered into the randomness of my fridge. Moped some more. Kind of napped. And then, just as Jeff and I had resigned ourselves to ordering from somewhere, I remembered that I actually did have the right ingredients, at least for the world's easiest soup. SAVED!
We love this soup. It's sunny and tastes bright, and moreover, I can usually scrounge up everything we need for it. And tonight I even had a leftover yellow pepper that I didn't use the other night, which added a sweet, slightly acidic dimension. We don't love it as much as we used to, but that's ok. It's tasty, and has enough body to make you forget that there really aren't that many ingredients. It's really a perfect pantry soup. I highly suggest it for a dark night ahead.
Red Lentil Soup with Lemon, adapted from the New York Times
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
pinch of hot pepper to taste (I am in love with Aleppo pepper. It's smoky and subtle, but packs a punch. The Times suggests cayenne or ground chile powder. As you wish.)
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, finely diced
juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in the tomato paste and spices, sauté 2 minutes longer.
2. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and season to preference.
4. Using a blender, purée half of the soup and add it back to the pot. Soup will be somewhat chunky.
5. Reheat soup if necessary, and then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve and eat.
*NB: I know, I know, I could have gone out to the store, since it's only five blocks away. But you know what? I just didn't want to go. So there.