Curried Red Lentil Soup

IMG_0252

Here in the Bay Area we’ve had our usual June gloom weather and no matter how many sips of tropical cocktails I have, the gray sky always wins out. So I decided to make a big pot of soup today. Every Greek I know grew up eating lentil soup during lent. For the casual Greek Orthodox observer, that could mean once a year. For others more devout, it could be a weekly meal. Most families, though, enjoy it throughout the year as a quick and hearty meal. I love it but am the only one in my household who cares for it.

In fact, I love lentils of all shapes and sizes. Pebble-looking French lentils, black beluga lentils, red and yellow lentils—even the lowly brown lentil used to make a traditional Lenten Greek Lentil Soup—are in my dry goods drawer waiting to get a turn on the stove. I decided to make a red lentil soup today, adding Indian curry to the mix in the hopes that my curry loving, lentil hating husband would have a bowl. I convinced him to give the above bowl of soup a try. His remark: “The flavors are really good, but it would REALLY be good with some sausage”. Want any more? “No thanks. Still tastes like lentil soup.” I can’t guarantee that my recipe will convert a lentil hater, but there’s no harm in trying, especially with this recipe.

Curried Red Lentil Soup

Split red lentils cook very quickly and can turn to mush if you aren’t careful. Split red lentils can be found at specialty, Italian, and Indian markets.

2 cups split red lentils

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (about 1 small onion)

1 cup finely chopped carrots (about 3 small carrots)

1 cup finely chopped red new potatoes (about 3 small to medium potatoes)

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

2 Tbsp. finely chopped jalapeno

1 15 oz. can chopped tomato in their juice

6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian version)

1 cup water

2 tsp. curry powder

1 dried bay leaf

Cilantro

Sour Cream

1. Rinse lentils in a stainer; set aside to drain.

2. Place medium stockpot over high heat, add oil, onion, carrots, and potatoes. Reduce heat to medium and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, tomatoes, and lentils; stir to combine. Increase heat to high and add broth, water, curry powder, and bay leaf.

3. When soup comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf and discard.

4. Serve soup with a garnish of chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.

Asparagus and Wild Greens Salad with Kefalograviera

IMG_0205IMG_0247

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, asparagus grew wild in most parts of the world. Most likely, it originated around the Mediterranean where it grew prolifically in sandy and volcanic soils, benefiting from the close proximity to the sea. Even today, Cretans, known for their expert foraging techniques, enjoy wild asparagus and other greens found anywhere their walking stick (katsouna) take them. Tackling the craggy cliffs and rugged coasts of the island is all in a days work for the collector of such greens. I wonder how ridiculous we would look to that same forager as we squabble about parking spots or stress about not finding our favorite ice cream flavor at our local supermarket.

I suppose our panacea for all of this unruly behavior is the farmers’ markets that have sprouted up in those same supermarket and public lots that we fight over when running to the store to pick up dinner that merely fills our stomachs, not our spirits. I admit I’m guilty of being a spoiled consumer on occasion, and soothe my conscious by shopping my local farmers market.

But have you noticed what’s happened there lately? If you’re not careful, you’ll run into the same pushy behavior that you can find at your local store. So maybe it’s just us that needs to take a breath, step back and let someone pass, and unload our stress in a different way.

So how does asparagus have anything to do with shopping and stress? I guess if we all had to return to a simpler time and forage for our food in order to feed ourselves and our family, if living were a matter of scratching the soil for anything edible, we might all be a little more friendly, forgiving, and respectful.

The above photo of asparagus, as beautiful as they appear, was a sad reminder of my hurried visit to a crammed lot with too many people, anxious vendors, and market restrictions that only allow farmers to sell certain items (even when their livelihood depends on selling more).

Asparagus and Wild Greens Salad with Kefalograviera

Kefalograviera is a semi-hard Cretan cheese, similar to Italian Asiago, but with a bit more of a bite.

1/2 bunch thin asparagus (about 1/2 lb.)
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 cups loosely packed greens such as arugula, purslane, watercress, or a combination of all

2 oz. Kefalograviera cheese

1. Wash and snap ends off asparagus; blanch quickly in salted boiling water, about 2 minutes. Remove from water and set aside. When cool, slice each stalk in half crosswise and lengthwise.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and salt and pepper. Add olive oil in a steady stream, mixing until well incorporated.

3. In a large serving bowl, toss together greens and asparagus. Drizzle dressing and with a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips of cheese on top of salad; toss and serve.