red lentil soup + simplicity

Many amazing meals come from the simplest of ingredients. Mirepoix, the French name for a combination of onions, carrots and celery, is the foundation of this soup, and along with some garlic, lentils, and potatoes to thicken everything up, the ingredient list doesn't include anything extraordinary. I love that about soup.

This was the last meal I cooked before heading back to work in the new year. It was a rainy Sunday, and Andrew and I spent the day watching movies, taking down Christmas decorations and grazing on what was left from our New Year's Eve dinner.

When I took these pictures, placing the ingredients one by one into the frame, I caught myself pausing to marvel at the fact that something so good can come from humble vegetables. It still captivates me, the magic of it all, though after doing it enough times the easier route might be to disengage from the process entirely. It is just chopping, stirring and pureeing, after all. But we cooks know it's more than that, which I think is what keeps us coming back to the stove day after day. It's one of those addicting methods of creativity that just so happens to nourish both our bodies and minds simultaneously.


Recipe slightly adapted (and doubled) from Food & Wine

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 cups red lentils
10 cups chicken or vegetable stock (2.5 quarts)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1 lemon
Kosher salt

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the celery and carrot, stirring to coat with the oil, and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt. Add the potatoes, lentils, and stock; bring to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, for about 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender.

2. Puree the soup in batches and return it to the saucepan. Add the cumin, cayenne , and lemon juice. Season with salt.