Don’t be no drag

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Though the temperature in Seoul is climbing, we’ve managed to go A/C free in our apartment up to now. Long afternoon rain showers haven’t hurt, either. Besides the obvious reasons, I like rain in the summer because it warrants a batch of hot homemade soup, or at least makes the undertaking seem more reasonable.

I know. It’s June and this photo has Fall written all over it. But hear me out. Around the same time last year, I made this recipe in Buenos Aires while staying with my friends, Natasha and Nickie. I was on a pasta, cheese, and empanada binge, while they were ordering weekly deliveries of mouth-watering wheat berry salads, spinach fettuccini, cashew milk, and almond butter from Cocina Verde. Gastronomically speaking, those few weeks were extraordinary, but there came a time after all that richness when iceberg lettuce had begun to look sexy. I turned to 101 cookbooks for something that would suit the three of us.

Eating a bowl of this soup is like pressing the reset button. The name of the original recipe is “Lively Yourself Up,” and that’s exactly what it does. Also, Koreans are particularly fond of eating hot soup to cool down during the months of June, July, and August, a method I can definitely get behind.

I did a few things differently. Instead of a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, I used 2 14.5 oz cans of whole plum tomatoes and broke them up in the soup. I like rustic, bigger bites of tomato against the tiny, softened lentils. Heidi’s recipe asks for 2 cups of water, but I needed 3 to yield more than a bit of liquid in each bowl. Start with 2 and add more to your taste. She wrote the recipe with a saffron-infused yogurt and suggests a few additions, like pan-fried cubes of butternut squash and fried shallot. This is how we ate the soup the first time, and it’s the version in the photo above. I haven’t found saffron in Korea, but lemon and coriander lend the same liveliness, and when the weather’s hot, it’s all the adornment the soup needs.

French Lentil Soup adapted from 101 Cookbooks    

2 cups French green lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

2 14-ounce cans plum tomatoes

3 cups water

3 cups of a big leafy green (chard, kale, etc), rinsed well, deveined, chopped

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add the lentils, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat, then add the onion and salt and saute until tender, a couple minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon. Add the lentils, water, cumin, and coriander and continue cooking for a few more minutes, letting the soup come back up to a simmer. Stir in the chopped greens, and wait another minute. Taste and season additionally as needed. Ladle into bowls, and serve with a spoonful of lemon coriander cream.

Serves 6 to 8.

Lemon Coriander Cream

1/2 cup full fat sour cream

Pinch of lemon zest, plus 1/2 a lemon squeezed

two pinches of salt

1/2 teaspoon coriander

Mix all ingredients together. If you like more lemon or salt, add it.