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A quiet soup

That was not the week I planned to have. Whoa.

A week ago yesterday, I went to bed like I do every night. I read “Shouts & Murmurs” in the New Yorker and wondered, as usual, why it wasn’t very funny. I set my glasses on top of the stack of books on my bedside table and then retrieved them when they fell, as usual, and slid behind the table. I felt pretty normal - which is to say, I didn’t feel abnormal. Until I woke up at 3:30 in the morning, feeling nauseous, and spent the next four days on the couch, trying to get down a glass of Gatorade. You know you’re very sick when even a nature documentary about the deep oceans - a nature documentary narrated by Sir David Attenborough, whom you adore, and whose voice is a known soporific - feels like too much for your fragile senses. I was very sick. I have now returned to the land of the living, and that’s all I want to say about that. Anyone for soup?

A red lentil soup, namely, from a new cookbook by Melissa Clark? It’s what I’ve been living on for three days now. Melissa Clark writes the terrific column “A Good Appetite” in the New York Times, and I’ve never made a recipe of hers that I didn’t like. She knows what’s what. A version of this soup first ran in her column almost three years ago, and I remember reading about it then, though it took me until this week to try it. I was looking for something soothing to eat, and her book was nearby, so I opened it to the table of contents, and right away, I saw it: Red Lentil Soup with Lemon. It looked reassuringly simple, without a lot of flash or spice - only cumin, black pepper, a little cayenne, lemon, and a restrained garnish of olive oil. And then I remembered that my friend Winnie had mentioned that same recipe to me a few months ago, in the spring, after a long winter of making soup. She said that it was one of her standbys, that it got everything right, and that it called for a dab of tomato paste, a dab that was brilliant and made it sing. Now that I’ve made it, I have to agree.

I only wish I had thought to put chopped cilantro on top before I took this picture. I also wish I had not drizzled the olive oil in a shape reminiscent of a snake closing in on seven unsuspecting mice. At any rate, make this soup.

I’ve made a lot of lentil soups - including one that will be in my column in Bon Appétit in December, so keep an eye out - but I’ve never made a specimen quite like this. Most lentil soups fall into one of two categories: Highly Spiced, or Not Spiced (sometimes called Bland). This one sits happily in the middle. It manages to be both mellow and full of flavor. The cumin chips in nicely, and the lemon helps close the deal, but it’s still a quiet soup, delicate and refined, every note in its place. I can’t say for sure how it works, but I think Winnie was right: tomato paste is the key. Clark ingeniously cooks it in with the onions and garlic, so it sizzles and intensifies and goes sweet-smelling, and though you can’t pick out its flavor in the finished soup, it lends some umami to the mix. All told, it’s the kind of thing you might want to pair with a few crackers and some aged cheddar, the type that crumbles when you slice it. It also screams for a beer. It says October.

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
Adapted slightly from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, by Melissa Clark

I had some Aleppo pepper in the spice drawer, and I decided to use it in place of the cayenne. It’s not as spicy, but it brings a lot of fragrance, and it was a good match for the flavors of this soup. So if you’ve got it, use it.

I should note, too, that I forgot to stir the cilantro into the soup, and instead I used it as a garnish. I liked the look of it, though I might try stirring it in next time, since that’s what Melissa Clark intended.

4 Tbsp. olive oil, plus additional good oil for drizzling
2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne or Aleppo pepper, or more to taste
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups red lentils, picked through for stones and debris
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the broth, 2 cups water, the lentils, and the carrots. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Continue to cook until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. Using an immersion or regular blender, puree about half of the soup. It should still be somewhat chunky, not completely smooth. Reheat if necessary, then stir in the lemon juice and cilantro. Serve the soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted very lightly with cayenne, if desired.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


Blogger Hazel said...

Sorry to hear you've been unwell. Red lentil soup is a favourite of mine - great comfort food. I made a batch once when I was on my own for a week- even though I ate it every day I didn't tire of it. It was good with a dollop of greek yoghurt.

12:16 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Sabine said...

Get well soon Molly!

I'm going to try the recipe next weekend. It does sound like comfort food. Nice.
I love your blog by the way. Amazing how you turn everyday live into poetry. The polaroids add to that nicely. Great work!

12:56 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous my little expat kitchen said...

You're right, this soup screams October. Well, I guess it's that time again huh? The time for soups. Not that I'm complaining. I love soups, especially lentil soups. I've never tried red lentils though.
I love Melissa Clark's recipes as well. Whenever I make one it's always successful. Good to hear that you're up and well again!

1:34 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Jessie said...

Lemon is something I really like but haven't tried putting in my soup before. I thought it was squash or pumpkin soup at first glance. But wow, it's lemon! I'd like to try that.

Hope you'll get well soon!

1:41 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Astrid said...

Being sick like that really, really sucks. Good to hear you are better now.

I'm new to the world of lentils (and beans). This sounds like a soup I should make.

2:29 AM, September 30, 2010  
OpenID matarkivet said...

I love that last line: "It says October". :)

2:36 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Jessica @ How Sweet said...

Sorry to hear you were sick but glad you are feeling better!

2:56 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous make my day said...

is it ok to say i laughed out loud when you're telling us about being sick? the snake and the seven unsuspecting mice!!!
We probably only have a snippet of soup weather in us down here...and all i've been wishing for is the warm weather. Perhaps this will have to stay in my mind and uncoil first sign of real cold. lovely post... hope you feel better. cheers kari

3:30 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous lorilu said...

so happy to hear that you're feeling better. the soup looks and sounds wonderful (love the bowl too !)

here's to cozy meals and full tummies everywhere

3:51 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger crypticpuzzler said...

Glad you're feeling better. That's a wonderful soup. Once when I had just made a pot one of my sons dropped by and I was almost not glad to see him because it meant less soup for me. But there was plenty and so I had the best of both: soup and my son. I rarely end up using the recipes I cut from the newspaper, but that one for red lentil soup is getting tattered.

4:04 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Sweet Freak said...

Glad you're feeling better! And glad to have a new lentil soup recipe. Just in time for Paris' chill...

4:31 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger newlywed said...

Looks wonderful! I am a long-time fan of lentil soup, but have yet to try it with red lentils. Thank you for sharing!

4:34 AM, September 30, 2010  
OpenID windycityvegan said...

Red lentil soup makes everything better, I think. Now that temperatures are out of the 90s, I might actually fire up the stove and give this a whirl. Looks delicious!

5:02 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Liza said...

Sounds lovely! Now my shopping list includes red lentils. Hope you feel back to normal soon.

5:24 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger this designer cooks said...

This sounds great and perfect for today. I am also feeling a little under-the-weather and this maybe just what I need.

5:37 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous ann said...

oh, yes. i know what you mean about lentil soups being either too spiced or bland. i agree. and i kind of think that both ends of the spectrum can have their place, depending on the mood. either way, lentil soup seems to be the right food in the face of a challenge. thanks for the recipe! i'm looking forward to trying it. lemon makes magic in unexpected places...

5:46 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Needleforhire said...

You are my hero. I've been feeling so blargh the last few days. And mostly not knowing what I want to eat. But mostly not eating anything until I am starving. This? This soup sounds perfect. Thank you.

6:07 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Kira said...

This is just like the soup my mother used to make every Halloween! She called it Ernie soup, for its orange color. Delicious and homey.

Glad you're feeling better!

6:08 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Lindsay said...

I find Shouts and Murmurs painfully unfunny too!

I will have to try this red lentil soup recipe. My go-to soup when I'm sick is egg drop soup from the Chinese restaurant around the corner. Something about the extreme saltiness always makes me feel better.

6:16 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Victoria said...

This is beautiful - so appropriate for fall; I'm sorry you made it because you were sick. Glad you're back on your feet.

I, too, love Melissa Clark's column in the NYTimes. I also like her book Chef Interrupted, which is, unfortunately, out of print. In this book, she cooked with famous restaurant chefs and took some of their recipes and re-worked them - very successfully - for the home kitchen. I particularly like the recipe for Pork Loin Roasted with Juniper and Herbs; it's delicious.

With the first part of Deathly Hallows coming out in November, the oil reminds me of Nagini going after Harry, Hermione, Ron, the twins, Neville, and Luna.

I like to make a brown lentil soup and top it with plain mushrooms sauteed till brown with a little chopped garlic, chopped parsley, and sea salt. Then I stir a scant tablespoon of sour cream in until marbled.

But I am going to try your gorgeous soup next.

6:17 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I first read that you were nauseous, I was hoping that you were going to say that you were pregnant! Think of a little girl with your hair color and your husband's curls! Oh well, I guess I will just make some soup!

6:17 AM, September 30, 2010  
OpenID buttersweetmelody said...

The way you write is always so inspiring...Thanks for sharing with us.

That looks incredibly good (and good for the soul too) I need to bookmark it right away!



6:18 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger pelican11 said...

Mmmm, I think I'll make this for dinner tonight. What must it be like to be so funny even when you don't feel well.. "a snake closing in on seven unsuspecting mice". Your blog just makes my day. Thanks.

6:37 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Katie (Mama May I) said...

Being a lentil soup of almost any kind addict, I'll be trying this.

I also wanted to mention that I made your spaghetti and meatballs recipe last week. Pure comfort. The butter in the sauce sealed the deal for me. And our kiddos loved it, too!

Glad you're feeling better.

7:00 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Vanessa said...

Hope you're feeling better now Molly. Soup is a great comfort for illness or chilly evenings and I've been making quite a bit of it myself. Lentil soup is a favourite of mine so I'm looking forward to snuggling up with a bowl of this.

7:01 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Dating is My Hobby said...

I will definitely try this. I've been looking for a "different" kind of soup recipe.

7:03 AM, September 30, 2010  
OpenID mollyonmoney said...

I like the suggestion of adding a drop of greek yogurt to the top.
A bit back I started a tradition of making a monthly soup. I double the recipe, put it in several containers and freeze it. It's like having my own soup cabinet (freezer)!
This sounds like a yummy addition to my soup collection.

7:18 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Poor you! Hope you're all better now and, if it helped you to discover this soup, perhaps it was the proverbial "blessing in disguise."

7:25 AM, September 30, 2010  
OpenID esdelope said...

I would love to find out if this would work with any other varieties of lentils - it looks so simple, that I'm dying to try!


7:31 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Jenny said...

Another nice addition, which would add a subtle, nutty flavor, is to do what the South Indians do: add about a teaspoon full of brown mustard seeds to the oil, and let them pop and spatter before adding the onions and garlic.

7:32 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Krysta said...

Yum! I'm going to make this next week!

7:41 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I love this soup!!! I had forgotten about it - I made it for my birthday dinner the year it was in the Times. (3,4 years ago???) Thanks for the reminder - I think it's just the thing to make this weekend.

8:06 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous The Rowdy Chowgirl said...

I love the color of this soup--perfectly warm and fall-ish. It's a good start to soup season, whether sick or well.

8:07 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous rebecca said...

I don't know how you do it. But every single thing you write about has me running for the kitchen to try it. I'm serious... it's such a talent.

8:13 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Megan Carroll said...

Looks great, I just bought some red lentils and I am a sucker for anything with cumin & cayenne. Sorry about being sick... I guess we have now entered that time of year.

8:15 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Jen said...

Molly, this is unrelated, but my husband made your spaghetti and meatballs from your column in Bon Appetit this month and we loved it. He mistakenly added half the amount of tomatoes but the correct amoutn of butter and was wondering why it was so little sauce! Haha. We tossed in a small can of diced tomatoes, let it cook for another 10 minutes or so, and gobbled it up. I was practically licking my bowl. I always trust your recommendations when it comes to fodo and recipes!

8:19 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Samantha said...

Always looking for a good lentil soup recipe...sounds delicious!

8:36 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous kickpleat said...

I'm glad you're on the up and up. And I made this soup after it appeared and I loved it. What I loved most about it is that it was made by my non-cooking husband when I was sick. I had to shout out where the lentils were kept and in what drawer to find the onions, but he did it and it was frickin' tasty. I think it's the key to health!

8:53 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous SeattleDee said...

Hope you're feeling better. The soup sounds perfect for our current Seattle weather, comfort food while we watch the weather change. This may join roasted red pepper and tomato soup on my favorites list.

9:11 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Jessica said...

Yeah! This soup is soo delicious, simple and healthy. Made it myself about two weeks ago. Though I added a few generous squeezes of Sriacha at the end. So it was a bit of a loud mouth.

9:47 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous lindsey said...

cilantro AND lentils. i think i'm in love. here's to feeling better.


10:10 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Katie said...

It's totally been making it's way around Seattle! I had it too - and also made lentil soup :) http://livelykatie.blogspot.com/2010/09/seven-day-virus.html

10:37 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Lia Adams said...

soup sounds amazing! Can I use French lentils?

10:52 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Susie Bee on Maui said...

Glad you are feeling better! Love lentil soup and will add this recipe to the "to try" file immediately.

Just made a lovely carrot soup myself.


10:53 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Victory Garden Yarn said...

Oh, did you happen to read my mind? I made lentils last week for the first time in...an embarrassingly long time, and I said to boyfriend, 'Wow, why don't we make lentils more often? We must be crazy?!' It makes no sense because we both love lentils, we just never make them at home.

So thank you. I now have a delicious sounding soup to add to my lentil arsenal. I must go buy some more lentils! :)

10:56 AM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Tracy said...

Ugh. That's no way to start Fall. Sounds like the soup has great healing powers. Tomato paste. Yes. What a treasure. A hidden treasure. But a treasure. I'm getting a whisper from the Autumn wind that it's time for pumpkin soup...

11:56 AM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Denise | Chez Danisse said...

Oh, this looks so good right now. Unfortunately, I have a cold. I just don't think I can make it down the hill for these ingredients. Maybe I can talk someone into making it for me. I'll try. Until then, I'll be dreaming of the quiet soup.

12:32 PM, September 30, 2010  
OpenID learningasichop said...

I've been reading your book and I love these polaroid type photos.

1:01 PM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Peregrine Days said...

When I was an exchange student in Istanbul, my host mother used to make almost this exact soup. In Turkish it is called "mercimek" and I use lots of lemon. Must go make a pot right this minute....

2:31 PM, September 30, 2010  
OpenID sohdalex said...

Definitely a post to welcome in Fall. I have never been much of a lentil person until recently, the only lentils I knew were the canned soup verity [cringe] BUT I love them now, and all the lovely combinations and flavors you can do with them. This sounds absolutely dreamy. The drizzle of olive oil on top just makes it for me. Being sick is no fun but what a delicious way to recover.


3:40 PM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Hallie @ Daily Bites said...

Whenever I'm sick, red lentil is my soup of choice too. I lived on it for almost two weeks after I had my wisdom teeth out last year. The stuff is comfort in a bowl. :) I can't wait to try your recipe!

4:42 PM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Lisa said...

So sorry you've not been well, but glad you're feeling better now. The red lentil soup sounds really good, too. It's first on my list for new soups to try this year.

Have you ever made avgolemono soup? It's the standard requested soup when someone in our family is ill.

4:43 PM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Jess said...

This soup looks fabulous, and I'm glad you're back among the living. Speaking of snakes and mice, have you heard of the book "Mouse Count"? I have a 2 year old and we read this book together the other day. Both creepy and vindictive.

6:48 PM, September 30, 2010  
Anonymous Edie said...

Hope you are feeling all better soon.

This sounds so yummy. I can't wait to make this, and serve with a great loaf of bread, amazing cheese and some Blue Moon beer with pretty orange slices. Thanks as always for the great post, sweet thoughts, funny lines, and scrumptious recipe!

7:15 PM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Keri said...

Serendipity! I bought lentils the other day, because I was thinking about this soup, and thinking it was almost chilly enough to make it, and then we had a week of 20 degree (C) weather. I'll make it this weekend anyway, because my girls are all sniffles and coughs. Glad you're back to health.

10:03 PM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Giovanna said...

Okay, two things to add here. First: a Shouts and Murmurs storythat never fails to make my husband and me dissolve into laughter, then tears.

Second: Have you tried Deborah Madison's red lentil soup with spinach, lime, and yogurt in her Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone? It has a lovely balance (I think) of complex flavors and simplicity--a real standby for us.

Glad you're back to the land of the living--it's so much nicer with you here!

10:08 PM, September 30, 2010  
Blogger Pots and Frills said...

It is interesting that so many soups are made from the same main ingredient and still the combination is quite new.

4:49 AM, October 01, 2010  
Anonymous Ilke said...

So great to see a familiar soup on your blog. I have made this many times for years and it is always a good one for winter. I sometimes add a small potato as well and puree it with the rest of it when I feel like having a thicker consistency. This soup never fails to satisfy everyone at the table.

Glad you are feeling better! That kinda sickness can drain every bit out of you.

6:14 AM, October 01, 2010  
Blogger Matt Stone said...

Ya need ya some good ol' natural gelatin from oxtail with a little Irish cough medicine tucked in there!


Get well soon. Soup looks great. I don't mind the 7 little mice at all.

8:19 AM, October 01, 2010  
Blogger The militant working boy said...

Your blog makes me want to snuggle up with a nice glass of red wine and eat my computer.

9:11 AM, October 01, 2010  
Blogger Joy said...

Great Soup recipe. I am a total soup eater when I'm sick.

10:22 AM, October 01, 2010  
Blogger wildflowers and sweet tea said...

That sounds perfect right now. This will be made this weekend. Thanks!

10:23 AM, October 01, 2010  
Anonymous Style Your Food Recipes said...

I will absolutely be trying this recipe out. I so thank you for sharing this info.

1:19 PM, October 01, 2010  
Blogger Sheri said...

Thank you for the recipe.I definately want to try this.I've never had red lentil soup before.I find it great that many of the readers could eat this soup for more than 3 days in a row.Sounds like my kinda soup.Thank you again for the recipe.


1:29 PM, October 01, 2010  
Blogger Erika said...

Deborah Madison's is a great soup. I second the recommendation.

2:05 PM, October 01, 2010  
Blogger linda said...

glad you are feeling better molly…
am on a soup roll…& this looks great!
thanks so much!

6:35 PM, October 01, 2010  
Blogger Sarah said...

I've been cooking a silimar recipe for years that the main exception being a 1/3 cup of finely chopped dried apricots that is sauted at the start with the onions et al - it adds a bit of depth and is just fantastic.

3:08 AM, October 02, 2010  
Blogger Joudie's Mood Food said...

Perfect soup for this time of year! I adore lentils! Yumm!

3:35 AM, October 02, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ouch! Just burnt a pancake reading your post and running for my shopping list to add red lentils....thanks for the awesome post. Sorry to hear you were unwell.

8:25 AM, October 02, 2010  
Blogger Marie said...

Yeah, what is with Shouts and Murmurs? It's quite unfunny. I like the snake and the mice...

10:07 AM, October 02, 2010  
Anonymous Nancy said...

For future emergency rehydration, juice boxes of unsweetened coconut water are without equal. Mild flavor, with a great electrolyte balance. No worries about throwing up in technicolor either.

When life gives you the plague, make soup! Not as catchy as the lemons/lemonade metaphor, but good advice nonetheless.

10:39 AM, October 02, 2010  
Anonymous Katie@Cozydelicious said...

Oooh, I wish I had a pot of this soup in my fridge. Yum! I have a big bag of red lentils just begging to be used up. This is perfect!

2:14 PM, October 02, 2010  
Anonymous burnttoast said...

Molly, glad you're better. It is amazing how something you can't see, some small primitive bit like a virus, can render a multi-celled, multi-systemed highly complex socialized evolved creature utterly helpless. On the other hand, there is that post survivor rush. And deprivation enhanced taste. I will make the lentil soup soon. Right not, your butternut squash soup is reducing on my range. It tasted so good, I was tempted to reduce it by having some NOW but figured that wasn't what was meant.

3:30 PM, October 02, 2010  


Glad you're feeling better. Being sick is only funny after the fact!

Usually when I make lentil soup it's chunkier--not so smooth like yours. And it sounds as if it has an almost 'perky' quality. I'm very intrigued--will try!

8:25 PM, October 02, 2010  
Blogger jen said...

i hope you are feeling better soon, and that you find more quiet soups like this to comfort. i especially enjoyed the oil drizzle interpretation.

8:29 PM, October 02, 2010  
Anonymous thebohomartha said...

i must say, but your first paragraph i figured you were pregnant!

9:26 PM, October 02, 2010  
Blogger boroth said...

tried this soup this weekend for a friend who just had a baby--based on all the raves. Have to say: it's better the second day (like many soups) but also I'm afraid it veers a bit too much toward bland. We tried adding even more tomato paste, and salt, but in the end decided just LOTS of lemon juice brightens it up. On the other hand, I only put in one onion rather than two (spaced out) so maybe that would have helped!

11:52 PM, October 02, 2010  
Blogger Carlos said...

That's a wonderful soup. Looks great and makes me think of fall. will and to my list of mus try!

8:32 AM, October 03, 2010  
Anonymous Cathy B. @ Brightbakes said...

cool coincidence, as I just stocked up on red lentils at the bulk food store a few days ago....this looks like ultimate fall comfort to me!!
cathy b. @ brightbakes

11:43 AM, October 03, 2010  
Blogger Becca said...

Do your red lentils turn beige/brown when you cook them? I've tried cooking them several ways and they never stay red, which makes me pout every time. I want them to stay pretty!

I tried this recipe (subbed pumpkin puree for tomato paste, left out cayenne, added bay leaf) and I liked the flavors, but I will probably use only 1 quart of chicken stock next time since I like my soups less...well...soupy.

1:15 PM, October 03, 2010  
Blogger Lucia said...

Last year I was so sick that I couldn't eat anything for weeks. I just drank pure apple juice, and it was one of the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. I think it was the same for you. By the way, pure apple juice IS one of the most delicious things in the world. And your soup too!

7:34 AM, October 04, 2010  
Anonymous Katharine (Meal Muse) said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe, Molly. The weather just turned got a bit cooler here in Los Angeles (after hitting 115 degrees last week!!!), and I'm looking forward to eating more soups. This one is right up my alley.

8:16 AM, October 04, 2010  
Anonymous World Food Inc. said...

It's definitely becoming "Soup Season" and the ones you describe sound wonderful. We can't wait to enjoy the nice mix of flavors and seasonings in each one.

We're just sorry it took you being under the weather to bring forth some cool weather delights.

12:34 PM, October 04, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Molly! I'm such a huge fan and swear by all your recipes, they are always incredible!

Just a question about this soup recipe, as I have just made it...is there any chance there is a misprint on the quantity of stock? I used 2 Quarts (plus the 2 cups of water) as your recipe calls for, and the soup came out incredibly watery and dull tasting. I then looked back on the NYTimes recipe and noticed it only calls for 1 Quart. Any chance you meant one? Or perhaps you liked it a little more liquid-y and wanted to use a bit more. Just checking!

Thanks for all the recipes and we look forward to coming to Delancey when we head to Seattle!


12:34 PM, October 04, 2010  
Blogger Danielle said...

This is a fantastic recipe! I can't wait to make it again.

2:08 PM, October 04, 2010  
Blogger Brittany Nicole Grace said...

This soup sounds autumnal and wonderful.
I just made a lentil soup last week that included whole cumin instead of ground, and I found it to be much more robust than when I've made it with the ground stuff. Currently thinking of other ways to incorporate whole cumin in place of ground. It turns out to be yet another spice (like nutmeg, or cinnamon) that I really appreciate when I can grind it myself. Do you ever use whole cumin in dishes?

2:29 PM, October 04, 2010  
Blogger Molly said...

Hi, all! Thanks for the well wishes. I'm so happy to be back to normal. Whew.

To answer your questions:

Lia, I don't think I would use French lentils in this particular soup - or, if you do, it's going to probably need some tweaking. Red lentils are split and hulled, which means that they cook much faster than French ones do, and I imagine they need a different amount of liquid.

To those who recommended Deborah Madison's soup, thank you! I'm looking forward to trying it.

Boroth, I'm sorry you found it bland! I do think that second onion is important - that, and a good dose of Aleppo or cayenne pepper.

Becca, my red lentils turn an orange color when I cook them. A little softer than their original pinkish red, but still pretty. I wonder if the type of red lentil you're getting is a little different?

Abby, I checked Melissa Clark's book, and it does indeed call for two quarts of stock. (The recipe on the NYT site is a half batch.) It makes a lentil soup that is thinner than some, but mine still had a nice amount of body. Sorry it didn't work out for you!

Brittany, I do use whole cumin in a lot of dishes, and it's wonderful. I like to use it in pots of black beans, and of course in Indian food. I'll bet it would probably work in this soup, too.

3:04 PM, October 04, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi again Molly! Thanks for getting back to me! You're right, it was a half batch on the NYTimes article, which made me want to try again to get it right with your recipe... I knew the soup must be fabulous, and I decided to make another batch. This time, I used your same measurements but did it with half homemade chicken broth and half homemade vegetable broth (and the water), and WOW! So much better! As it turns out the bland taste in the first batch was due simply to the fact that I was using a brand of broth I hadn't had before. Now, voila! Delicious! It's officially cold here (bay area) for the first time and can't wait to have it for dinner!

(By the way, I also made a batch of what I simply call the Best Soup in the World for tomorrow - your Chickpea Tomato Soup. Thank you so much for that recipe, it's our go-to cold night soup with crusty bread!)


4:15 PM, October 04, 2010  
Anonymous riceandwheat said...

This soup looks so lovely and just the thing as the weather starts turning cooler (although in San Francisco, we're just actually getting to the warm part of the year :) Molly, I saw someone ask about French lentils but I wonder if some of the Indian lentils/dal that are also split and hulled would work for this soup? Just because that's what I usually have in my cupboards... maybe it's worth a try!

9:57 PM, October 04, 2010  
OpenID mlgater63 said...

So, the weather turned fall-ish here in Northern California yesterday. I perused my pantry and found I had all the ingredients for this soup, except the all-important tomato paste. However, hidden in the door of my fridge was an almost-finished tube of harissa - tomato paste and spice all in one hit! The soup was great.

8:25 AM, October 05, 2010  
Blogger Eva said...

I hope you feel much better soon! The soup looks so beautiful and sounds very good for you, so hopefully it will restore you to full health!

When I was sick as a little girl my Dad would always make me Avgolemono soup, it's a Greek soup made from lemons, chicken broth and eggs that is basically packed with vitamin C and protein. Try some of that up the next time you're feeling under the weather, it always helped me :)

12:33 PM, October 05, 2010  
Anonymous Kalle Bergman said...

Lentil soup, sounds fantastic - and I'll give it a go as soon as possible. Thanks for the recipe!

1:45 PM, October 05, 2010  
Anonymous Jo Romero said...

Love this soup - we're getting a bit bored of the usual soups I cook for everyone so will try this out on them definitely! Thanks for sharing this, sounds - and looks - delish :)

7:57 AM, October 06, 2010  
Blogger Giovanna said...

this soup looks really healthy and delicious! beautiful blog greetings from italy http://whitedarkmilkchocolate.blogspot.com/

10:36 AM, October 06, 2010  
Blogger Camille said...

I think that you might be responsible for a run on lentils in Seattle, Molly. My PCC was fresh out of them. I'm looking forward to trying this, once I can get my hands on some lentils.

11:06 AM, October 06, 2010  
Blogger Jean said...

This looks so good. I'm new to your site. Is there any way to print a recipe; am I just missing it? Thanks.

3:35 PM, October 06, 2010  
Blogger Molly said...

Hi, all. Thank you for the soup suggestions! You're great.

riceandwheat, I do think those Indian lentils would work, yes. Worth a shot!

Jean, the problem is that Blogger doesn't offer a print function for its blogs - or not that I know of, anyway! When I want to print from my blog or another Blogger-hosted site, I copy and paste the text - only the parts that I want - into a Word document, and I print it from there. That's the easiest way to do it.

4:44 PM, October 06, 2010  
Blogger Robin said...

The soup looks delicious. thank you for posting the recipe. glad you're on the mend!

5:25 PM, October 06, 2010  
Blogger A girl named Elliott said...

I am so happy you so comfortably incorporated "soporific." What a fantastic word...

6:01 PM, October 06, 2010  
Anonymous Julie said...

Sipping this now, with more in the freezer for another day. Made great use of my surplus carrots. Thank you!

7:14 PM, October 06, 2010  
Blogger Cheilita said...

Made this yesterday. wonderful. it has such a creamy lentil texture and it kicked off the beginning of soup season up in this house. Also i just wanted to say once again that every single recipe I have ever made from your blog is amazing and perfect and pleases me and my family in the most excellent ways. thank you molly wizenberg.

6:06 AM, October 07, 2010  
Anonymous Allison said...

We just made this soup this week and it turned out delicious. I keep trying to sneak some beans and lentils into my family, very difficult, but this got a thumbs up from my husband.

I adored the creamy texture and the flavor was delicious. I followed your recipe exactly and it turned out perfect. Your recipes never fail me, thank you!

12:26 PM, October 07, 2010  
Blogger Sandra Bennage said...

This is one of my favorite soups. I make it for my family...and I bribe the kids with fresh baked bread since lentil is still an acquired taste for them. Glad to see this great recipe here.

5:13 PM, October 07, 2010  
Blogger Kelley Johnson said...

I made this soup this week and it is savory as it is satisfying. Truly a quiet soup, but one that will forever stay in my repertoire. Thank you for sharing...

4:07 PM, October 08, 2010  
Blogger Jean said...


7:29 PM, October 08, 2010  
Anonymous jenny said...

I'm always surprised too that Shouts & Murmurs isn't funny...and also that the fiction is usually so bleak. But happily, so many other New Yorker gems. More lentil soup recipes always wonderful...!

3:10 PM, October 09, 2010  
Anonymous Val said...

I keep finding myself drawn to dishes that are hearty and orange, just like this one. It must be October infiltrating my tastebuds.

8:34 AM, October 10, 2010  
Anonymous David Haddad said...

Lentil soup is an arabic favorite. A couple things you can add to this to make it taste in even more delicious:
- zucchini
- a couple of tomatoes
- chopped potatoes (to thicken it up)

I am going to go make this now.

7:48 AM, October 11, 2010  
Blogger the actor's diet said...

terrific - i know what to do with my new immersion blender now!

9:57 AM, October 12, 2010  
Anonymous Jeanette said...

This sounds and looks delicious. I love red lentil soup, it's so warm, comforting and good for you. I like the aleppo pepper you added, will have to try it.

10:51 AM, October 12, 2010  
Blogger Astrid said...

I made this today; both Sølve and I loved it.

12:08 PM, October 12, 2010  
Blogger Alice said...

This soup is magically delicious! Thank you, thank you. You also inspired me to make Rustic Plum Tart (qty. 3) due to the box of plums my neighbor gave me from her tree that was about 10" x 20" x 10" deep. Although I went with a similar recipe that I've made before from Cook's Illustrated for Rustic Plum Tart. It also calls for vanilla, almond extract and ground almonds and comes out chewy *and* cakey.

12:56 PM, October 12, 2010  
Blogger jami said...

What a nice recipe, and perfect for the first cool, drizzly, fall night we've had. My husband would've loved any non-butternut squash soup, but he particularly liked the cumin, and I loved the lemon juice. A little more salt balanced it out perfectly. I would have enjoyed it even more had I not seared my lower lip tasting it. Soup = hot = bad for lips.

7:30 PM, October 17, 2010  
Anonymous Ena said...

I love lentils! Unfortunately, lentils is not loved in my country, nobody I know loves it except me. I made it yesterday and I really loved it!

7:26 AM, October 18, 2010  
Blogger Lisa Weeks said...

Sir David Attenborough is one of my favorite people. Thank you for an excellent book overflowing with wonderful tales and delicious recipes. I look forward to trying this one.

5:04 PM, October 19, 2010  
Blogger iris said...

I went to my local grocery store and asked the cashier if they carried "red lentils" and she asked me what they were...

Anyways, I eventually succeeded and made this red lentil soup this past week. Soooooo tasty.

12:11 AM, October 22, 2010  
Blogger Laura said...

I also always wonder why Shouts & Murmurs wasn't very funny.

7:51 AM, October 22, 2010  
Blogger Kristianna said...

I just made this tonight--finally!--after keeping my eye out for red lentils but not going to any special stores. Target had red lentils, go figure.

Anyway, this was AWESOME. Made it just as the recipe stated, and had a grilled cheese sandwich with it. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

8:18 PM, October 28, 2010  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Just made this yesterday, and it is delicious! Both hearty and fresh.

7:21 AM, November 01, 2010  
Blogger Welcome... said...

This soup is AMAZING. I tweaked it a bit and posted my version on my blog. And of course gave credit where it is due! :O)


I'm sorry you've been sick, but THANK YOU for sharing! I've made this twice in a week, and I'm planning on making it again next week. :O)

7:36 PM, November 06, 2010  
Blogger sarah said...

I think this sounds so tasty! I included a link to the recipe on my weekend links round up. Thanks again for the inspiration.

5:41 AM, November 09, 2010  
Blogger calhoun said...

I made this soup today and add my vote to all the rave reviews. I erred by adding too much cayenne...wish there was a more accurate way to measure a "pinch."!

I found the red lentils in the bulk section of my supermarket, and now know that they are actually pink/yellow in color.

I love lentils, especially the ones from Castelluccio in Umbria, which some say are the best anywhere. Would they work in this recipe? (or are they similar to the French lentils, requiring a longer cooking time and/or liquid?). Is there something special about red lentils that provide a unique flavor, or is it more that the color is so appetizing?

3:52 PM, November 11, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful soup -- even my very picky 5-year-old son loved it. "You should make this again tomorrow, mama!" he said. He NEVER says that.

The soup reminded me of the lentil soups I've had in Turkey -- often for breakfast and always with a drizzle of fresh lemon juice. Delicious.

12:00 PM, November 14, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just made this, this morning and it is hands down the best lentil soup i've ever tasted, let alone made!
thank you so much!

10:39 AM, November 30, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try this as a variation. In a separate pan heat some olive oil, flavor it for a few minutes with whole cumin, add coarsely chopped onion until just transparent, then fold in baby spinach leaves until just wilted. A generous dollop of this mix in the bottom of each soup bowl adds wonderful crunch, texture and a color surprise.

10:36 PM, November 30, 2010  
Blogger Southerngal said...

Just finished your lovely book. Now I'm enjoying exploring your terrific blog. Molly, your work is magical--in every sense. The writing, the images, the recipes, and especially, your inspired way of sharing yourself, your experiences and your gifts--and of course, those amazing recipes--with all of us. I look forward to more!

6:38 AM, December 04, 2010  
Blogger michaela said...

nice easy lunch, but i used quite a bit of aleppo pepper, about a teaspoon. i also added an equal amount of coriander when i ground the cumin. i see i prefer heavily spiced.

4:58 PM, December 19, 2010  
Blogger black.of.the.woods said...

Marvelous. Thanks for reminding me that lemon makes things so fresh and delicious. Ate this for breakfast several days in a row quite happily... a great soup to make for my vegan friends. Also I add my voice to the chorus of those singing the praises of this wonderful blog! I love your writing and I want to cook everything... health and good cheer to you!

9:21 PM, February 25, 2011  
Blogger Meg said...

This was so totally delicious that I ate a second bowl, even though I wasn't hungry any more. My husband said he'd skip dessert and just eat a third.... I too used a bit of coriander along with the cumin (I grind them together for making chili, and happened to have exactly two teaspoons left in a jar from last time, so figured what the hell.) The spicing was still subtle, but I think the coriander was an amazing addition, what with cilantro and lemon already in the mix.
I just rediscovered your blog and am delighted with how you pluck such great recipes from all of the recipes out there. We're on an Orangette (not to mention orange) binge in my kitchen -- yesterday we had skillet carrots, also totally delicious and a new favorite. I bet that technique will be great with baby white turnips in the late spring. And I just bought some cacao nibs to make the whole wheat sables... Thanks for breaking me out of a late-winter cooking rut and putting a spring in my step from all the deliciousness! (and we can all use a spring of any sort around here in Vermont, where the snow is piled up to the windowsills AND covered in a sheen of wicked ice).

5:15 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger michaela said...

have you tried the "original" version in melissa clark's book-from her friend anya? i'm currently obsessed with that version after making the one you shared here. i really enjoy the addition of bulgur, which clark decides to omit in her recipe.

2:23 PM, April 14, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made this soup and LOVED it, so did my boyfriend. We live in the UK but visit Seattle often, we're gonna try and visit Delancey next time we come - I'm also going to get your book as I don't seem to be able to get it over here? I put in a fresh red chilli instead of the cayenne pepper, and as I haven't seen Cilantro here either, I used coriander, which was delish. I love your blog and your story.

10:39 AM, May 22, 2011  
Anonymous D. @ Outside Oslo said...

Thanks again and again for posting this recipe last year. I made it shortly after you posted it, and again last night. It's sure to be a yearly autumn favorite in our home. Cozy, with just the right amount of spice and warmth--it's a great find!

6:25 PM, October 03, 2011  
Anonymous Margherita said...

Was looking for a red lentil soup and stumbled upon your website. This recipe looks incredible, I'm going to make it tonight.

6:57 AM, February 27, 2012  
Anonymous Jade said...

Just made the soup. It is really delicious! Flavorful as promised but not kick-your-face spiced like a lot of lentil soups. I omitted the cilantro because my husband is not a fan, but I enjoyed the brightness from the lemon and tomato paste so I didn't really miss it. We ate this with crusty buttered French bread. My 2 year old picked up his bowl and slurped away. This is going in my recipe stack. Mmm mmm.

6:51 PM, September 10, 2012  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Bookmarked some time ago, I finally made this, adding turmeric and a combination of ground arbel chilies, paprika and cayenne. Baby kale vs. minced cilantro. Nice, but I recommend omitting 2 cups of liquid. 8 cups of stock/water to 2 cups of lentils is just fine. The results were a bit too brothy for me, so I boiled the soup down as much as I could in the time that I had. Very good with skillet cornbread, grits vs. cornmeal, soaked in buttermilk while putting together the soup.

8:00 PM, March 07, 2013  
Blogger Emily Sheldon said...

I made this last night and used about 2 1/4 cups of lentils and omitted the extra two cups of water... the soup had the best, thick consistency and much more flavor! So delicious!

10:45 AM, March 25, 2014  
Blogger Rachel Page said...

Great article. I really enjoyed reading it.

7:05 AM, November 08, 2014  
OpenID pianopile said...

Just recovering from a cold so this soup came at the right time. Turned out really nice and the lemon gave it an interesting twist.
What surprised me was that the recipe asked for adding the salt at the beginning. I was taught that you should never add salt to lentils until they were done as it alters with their cooking time. Anyway I did what the recipe told me to and it worked out fine. I am amazed...
Thank you for the recipe!

3:56 AM, May 11, 2015  

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