My oldest son spent a week this past summer with his Aunt & Uncle in lower MI, and raved about a lentil soup he tried at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Hamtramck. (Yes, Hamtramck! It appears that although this city used to be the Polish capitol of MI, it has now been taken over by Middle Eastern population/ culture.)
He did his best to describe to me what was in the soup, so I went about my quest to replicate it- since it sounded absolutely amazing! Apparently, I did a remarkable job, because it is now one of his favorite soups, and mine as well! This soup is also entirely vegetarian, and super healthy! It is rather simple in base ingredients, but very complex in spice and flavor- which makes for a perfect balance. Lentils are very small, which allows for quick cooking, (especially if soaked ahead of time), add a hearty body to any dish, and are excellent in absorbing flavors. (Plus, they're inexpensive, and available year round!)
When soaked, they actually have a pink-y or orange-y sort of color, so the addition of the fire roasted tomatoes added depth of color, and a sweet smoky flavor. The lemon juice at the end adds that fresh tartness, that brings all of those amazing spices together! Many spices are used in Morocco and other Middle East countries, such as: coriander, ginger, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, sumac, pepper, allspice, clove, tumeric, paprika, chili, saffron, and cayenne. The blend of spices I have chosen for this soup are just right. It is not "hot" at all, but rather intriguing and incredibly flavorful. If you like your food more on the spicy side, simply add some cayenne to bring on the heat!
This is probably the only "meatless" dish I've ever made that my husband will eat, (which says alot!) This makes for excellent leftovers, it's quick and easy to make, and if you have a smaller family, feel free to cut this recipe in half. Some additional items you could add would be: red peppers, chiles, or carrots. And this soup would go great with some fresh naan or pita bread, and maybe a sprinkle of feta cheese before serving. Absolutely delicious!
Yield: 6-8 Servings
Prep-time: About 20min.
1 # dried red lentils
1/2 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped or minced)
Olive or Grapeseed Oil
6 cups of Chicken or Vegetable Stock or Broth
1- 14.5oz can of Fire Roasted Tomatoes
Salt & pepper
1 t. Paprika
1 t. Cumin
1 t. Chili powder
1/2 t. Tumeric
1/2 t. ground Cinnamon
1/2 t. Sumac *****If can't find, simply omit
2 T. of dried Parsley (or, 1/2 of a bunch of fresh chopped parsley)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Garnish: extra parsley and/or crumbled feta cheese
1) Soak the lentils: Place the dried lentils in a bowl, and add water until the lentils are just covered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. Or, you can simply do this 1-2 hours prior to making soup. Just leave out at room temp. covered.
2) When ready to make soup, add some olive or grapseed oil to your pot and place on medium/ high heat. Add the garlic and onion, and saute until translucent. Lower the heat, and slowly add the stock or broth. Then, add about 2/3 of the soaked lentils, the can of tomatoes, and all of the spices, (including parsley.)
3) Allow to cook for about 10min. Using a stick/ immersion blender, blend the soup while in the pot until pureed. Add the lemon juice, and the remaining soaked lentils. Taste at this time to adjust any seasoning. Cook for about 5-7min., and serve hot. Garnish with additional parsley or crumbled feta cheese, along with some naan or pita bread.