Thursday, January 3, 2013

Early Days of January

Are you like me and finding yourself in holiday detox mode this week? Taking down your Christmas decorations, making an ambitous to-do list, and scrubbing corners of your home left idle for too long? After returning home from a fantastic holiday with our families and unpacking the last bag, I looked in our empty refrigerator and thought, I can't eat another bite. Too many cookies eaten in the last two weeks. Too much meat. Took many potatoes. Too much wine. I need vegetables, a cup of tea, and a break. 

Without fail, when we've been away from home for a long time I find myself missing our kitchen. Missing routine. After a long day or time away, standing over the stove stirring a pot of soup and listening to NPR is heaven (when did I get so old?). After we brought Emerson home from the hospital last January, I felt that same pull to get to the kitchen. To chop and stir and make our house smell good. 

This is a mighty pot of soup. She may not win any beauty contests, but she is a trusted friend, comforting and healthy and perfect for the cold days ahead of us. This is the first thing I cooked after Emerson was born and it became a fast favorite. And now I watch her slurp down bowls of the stuff with her dad. It's a very good soup and you should do yourself a favor and make a pot too.

Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Crispy Onions
For the Crispy Onions:
3 medium onions, very thinly sliced

2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of kosher salt

For the Lentil Rice Soup:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 cup brown basmati rice

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, more to your taste
1 1/2 cups red lentils
4 cups (5 oz) baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped (optional)
Lemon wedges

For the Crispy Onions:
Melt the butter and 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Toss in the onions. Cook 5 minutes until they begin to release their juices. Raise the heat to medium-high and continue cooking until the onions are soft and golden, about 7 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon oil and salt and increase the heat to high. Cook, stirring only a few times, until the onions are crispy and charred in places, 5-10 minutes.

For the Soup:
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 5-7 minutes.  Drop in the ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and bay leaf, and cook until the mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the stock, 3 cups water, the rice, and the salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the flame to medium-low and let the rice simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in the red lentils and cook until the rice is tender and the lentils are meltingly soft, about 30 minutes.  Stir in the spinach and 2 tbsp mint (if using), and let them wilt completely.

Taste, and add more salt if necessary.  If the dish tastes flat, squeeze in a few lemon wedges (I usually juice a whole lemon into ours).  Ladle the soup into serving bowls and top with a small handful of crispy onions.  Garnish with mint (if using) and a sprinkle of flaky salt.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Funny, the first cooking I did after the new year was also a pot of lentil soup. Something so warming, comforting, and healthy about it after a few weeks of indulgence. Happy New Year!