When I hear about friends having a tough time, the first thing I grab isn’t a pen to write a note or flowers from the florist — instead, I reach for my stockpot and make a batch of soup to share.
After all, what says comfort and nurturing better than a cup of something warm and homemade?
I’ve made dozens of different kinds since September, usually some riff on whatever ingredients I have on hand.
A leftover roast chicken turned into a Greek inspired soup with warm pockets of lemony orzo.
A centerpiece of Kabocha squash was roasted and simmered into a thick basmati rice studded puree.
This week, one of my friends having a tough time is vegan, and I thought I’d look at some old cookbooks for fresh inspiration.
As some of you know, I cooked at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco (what feels like a lifetime ago). I got the job when I was still in cooking school, and it couldn’t have been a more nurturing and fun place to work.
All the horrors you’ve heard about commercial kitchens had no place here; everyone who worked there got along and worked to a common goal– to make great food (that happened to be completely vegetarian).
I stumbled upon a recipe in this book and I decided to take it for a test drive (with a few tweaks).
I started by gathering the spices.
I didn’t have a yellow onion on hand, but I did have a red one, so I diced that up.
I wanted to incorporate some ingredients I had on hand, giving this soup more texture and vitamin goodness.
I prepped the radicchio, little fingerling potatoes and carrots.
Although the recipe didn’t call for it, I added in a bountiful amount of turmeric (2 Tbs.) and a bit more diced tomato than the recipe called for, and I loved what both did for the color and depth of flavor.
The soup was completely done in about 45 minutes (using the last ten minutes or so to allow the potatoes and carrots simmer and soften in the broth and the radicchio only taking a minute or to wilt fetchingly).
I finished off the soup with a little lemon juice, s/p and Sriracha, and topped it off with fresh mint. It was then ready to deliver around the hood and beyond.
Some people knew I was coming with warm soup, and some did not — I just left a little something on their doorstep.
And the beautiful thing was later coming back home and knowing that lunch was waiting for me.
I grabbed a cooking magazine, heated up the pita and soup (which got a chopped Marcona and mint double header) and sat down for a little love of my own.
What’s in YOUR stockpot?
- ¾ C. lentils, about ¼ pound, sorted and rinsed (I bumped it up to 2 C. as I wanted it thicker)
- 6 C.cold water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbs. olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced, about 2 C. (I used a red and it too was fine)
- 1 Tbs. each grated fresh ginger and minced garlic (I doubled both)
- 1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
- ½ tsp. ground cumin (I doubled that)
- 1 tsp. coriander
- 1 celery rib, diced, about ½ C.
- 1 small carrot, peeled and diced, about ½ C.
- 1- 14 oz. can tomatoes, chopped, including the juice (I used a 28 oz. can)
- cayenne pepper (or your favorite hot sauce to taste)
- ½ Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- ⅔ Tbs. chopped cilantro (or mint)
- Place the lentils in a large saucepan with the water and the bay leaft and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes.
- While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a soup pot and add the onions and ¼ tsp. salt and saute over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the spices and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, adding a little water if needed. Add the celery, carrots , zucchini, and ½ tsp. salt and cook over low heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf from the lentils.Add the lentils and their broth, ½ tsp. salt, and 2 pinches of cayenne to the vegetable mixgture and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the lemon juice and the cilantro just before serving and season to taste with salt and cayenne.