Turkish red lentil soup
Lentil soup, made with the bright pink legumes, is on many menus in Turkey. Sometimes it’s a thin broth, sometimes thick, often a little hot, and very aromatic. The soup can be served with a swirl of dried mint sauteed in butter or topped with Turkish red peppers (which are smokier and more intense than crushed red pepper). It’s a vegetarian bowl, quite nutritious, that begins with dried chickpeas, whose texture adds a pleasing crunch to the pureed soup. Turkish cooks use rice or bulgur to thicken the mixture, and mint they dry because it grows wild. Here the soup is thickened with long-grain white rice and garnished with fresh mint and more red peppers (called Maras or Urfa peppers at Formaggio Kitchen, 617-354-4750).
1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, seeded and chopped
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon Turkish red peppers or crushed red pepper, or to taste
2 cups dried red lentils
1/4 cup long-grain white rice
2 1/2 quarts water
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (for garnish)
Extra Turkish red peppers or crushed red pepper (for sprinkling)
1. Drain the chickpeas and set them aside.
2. In a soup pot, heat the oil. When it is hot, add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes. Add the jalapeno and salt. Continue cooking, stirring often, for 2 minutes more.
3. Add the cumin, paprika, and red pepper. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until the spices are aromatic. Add the chickpeas, lentils, and rice. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until they are coated with spices.
4. Add the water and bring to a boil. Stir in the foam on the surface of the liquid. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chickpeas are tender and the lentils have almost turned into a puree.
5. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with fresh mint and red pepper. Sheryl Julian