Red Lentil Soup is one of my great favorites. I used to enjoy a cup every day when I was making it regularly in the Cafe. Not only is it delicious but it has a long history of Middle Eastern and biblical associations. I always think of Esau so craving the “red red” stuff his younger brother Jacob was making that he sold his birthright for it.
I admit, though, I am skeptical that the lentil “pottage” or stew Jacob made was anything like the red lentil soup I make. Red lentils turn kind of a beige color when cooked, and I add some fresh tomato and a bit of tomato paste to my soup to restore the color. Tomatoes were not available to the ancient Israelites. I also use carrots for some color, and they were available — but that’s still not enough to explain Isaac doubling the “red” in his description. Sumac, a popular Middle Eastern seasoning with a lemony flavor, is a possibility. On its own it has a “red red” hue, but it would require too much to get that noteworthy color in the soup itself.
Still, I like to imagine the biblical scene when I am making Red Lentil Soup in my own kitchen and savoring the wonderful aroma.
- Red lentils, dried, 1 lb.
- Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
- Garlic, 2 tsp., minced
- Celery, 3 stalks, small diced
- Carrots, 3 medium, small diced
- Onion, 1/2 lg Spanish onion, diced
- Plum tomatoes, 2-3, petite diced
- Tomato paste, 3 oz.
- Water, after adding tomatoes and paste, add water to 10 cups
- Lemon, juice of 1
- Sea salt, 1 TB
- Cumin, 1 TB, slightly rounded
- Hot paprika, 1/2 tsp. (or more, to taste)
- Cilantro, 1 bunch, chopped
- Petite dice washed celery, onion and carrots.
- Sauté minced garlic in olive oil. When softened, add diced veggies.
- When veggies are cooked, add lemon juice, tomatoes, water and seasonings.
- Bring tomatoes, veggies and water to a boil.
- Add prepared lentils.
- Cook soup until beans are tender.
- Check seasoning and consistency and adjust if needed.
- Stir in chopped cilantro and serve.