Friday, January 9, 2009

Middle Eastern Chard and Lentil Soup

I know there are lots of lentil soup recipes out there, but this one is outstanding. The broth comes out incredibly rich, it must be from sauteeing the greens and garlic separately. This recipe comes from Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean Greens and Grains, and was sent to us by my cousin L. as part of our wedding gift, which included a large clay cazuela and other cooking implements and ingredients. It has become one of the mainstays of our family menu for the past 5 years. Wolfert claims the recipe is from Syria.

Makes 10 cups, serving 8.

Wolfert writes:

"Here’s a light soup for all seasons: in summer serve it cool or at room temperature to refresh; in winter serve it hot to nourish. It’s delicious with grilled bread topped with crushed oily black olives and sprinkled with oregano."

"This soup is even better when you add another green to the chard. In early spring I combine chard and dandelions; in summer, chard and arugula; in winter, chard and spinach."

"Use any lentil you like. For me the most savory is the small Spanish pardina lentil available through Phipps Ranch (by mail order) or the small brown lentils available at Middle Eastern and Indian groceries. "

[Note: I almost always use chard and kale in combination, and I never serve it cool or room temperature. I always use the miniature green lentils from France, which are available at Clover's. EH]

"A potato, cut paper thin so it will dissolve, is cooked along with the lentils to thicken the soup and give it a rich creamy texture."

1 c. dark mini-lentils such as Spanish pardina or Egyptian, Ethiopian, or Indian whole masoor dal
1 tsp. salt
2 quarts light chicken stock (optional) [or vegetable broth, of course; my favorite is the "No-Chicken" broth. EH]
1 medium potato, peeled and sliced paper thin
1 c. chopped onion
3 Tbsp. olive oil
8 large Swiss chard leaves
1 lb. leafy greens such as spinach, dandelions, arugula, watercress, beet greens, kale or a mixture
1/4 c. roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Wash and pick over lentils. Place lentils in a saucepan and cover with the stock or 2 quarts water salted with 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that surfaces. Add the potato, partially cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

2. In a large skillet, slowly brown the onion in the olive oil. Meanwhile, wash, stem, and roughly shred the greens. You should have about 1 packed quart. Add the cilantro and garlic to the skillet and sauté for a minute or two, then stir in the greens and allow them to wilt, covered. Scrape the contents of the skillet, including the oil, into the saucepan and continue cooking another 20 minutes, or until thick and soupy. Stir in the lemon juice and serve hot, lukewarm, or cool.

[Note: I have made this without the potato, and even without the cilantro when necessary; but the lemon juice is crucial! EH]

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