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Esau's Pottage (Red Lentil Soup)
Yield: 8 servings
This soup is full of nuanced flavors and very simple to make. Sauteed vegetables and tomato provide the flavor base, so no stock is needed. Pareve and vegan, it is great for meals with or without meat.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound onions, coarsely chopped (4 cups)
1/2 cup scraped and coarsely chopped carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
4 chopped garlic cloves plus 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
3 cups red lentils, picked over carefully and rinsed well in cold water
3 canned plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 Turkish bay leaf
1 tablespoon ground cumin, preferably freshly toasted and ground
Freshly ground black pepper or Aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon dried mint
About 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
best-quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
In a very large, wide, heavy saucepan or 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, salt lightly, and saute until soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in the carrots, celery, and chopped garlic, and raise the heat to moderately high. Saute, stirring, until the vegetables are softened and edged with gold. Add the lentils and stir to coat them with the oil. Add the tomatoes, 9 cups cold water, and the bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are very soft. Remove the pot from the heat, and let the soup cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.
Puree the soup, in batches, in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Or puree it in the pot, using an immersion blender.
Return the soup to the pot and add the cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, crush the whole garlic cloves into a paste with the mint and a little salt. Saute the garlic paste in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a small skillet over medium heat until it is just tinged with gold.
Stir the garlic paste and the lemon juice into the soup, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Ladle the soup into bowls, and drizzle a thread of fine olive oil on top of each serving. Serve with lemon wedges.
Cook’s Note: Leftover soup is delicious, though it will thicken considerably. Just thin it with water before reheating and add a splash of fresh lemon juice before serving.