GUEST POST: Curried Red Lentil Soup with Dried Cherries and Cilantro

Curry Soup

I sincerely hope that this is the last time I will be cooking soup this winter. Don’t get me wrong, I love soup and I have made countless different batches since the cold weather first hit NYC last fall. My soup making obsession rose to new levels when my dear dad gave me the ultimate Christmas gift: a Cuisinart food processor. (Clearly the way to my heart is through cookware.)

The truth is there is nothing like a hot bowl of soup when it’s cold and dreary outside, and I often find that it is the only thing that will warm me up on a frigid day no matter how many sweaters I pile on.  So while the icy wind was howling outside my window, I flipped through my new favorite cookbook, Meatless by Martha Stewart, and was instantly drawn to this recipe. The balance of spicy curry powder with creamy coconut milk and sweet dried cherries is amazing. Top it off with some fresh cilantro and you have a soup that is complex in flavor and just plain beautiful to look at. Here’s hoping this batch lasts me until the weather gets warm enough to start making my favorite springtime recipes again.

Lentils

Cause wait a second, today is the first day of spring. Oh, that lovely word and all that it conjures. Brooklyn in the spring is a pretty magical place and I highly recommend visiting if you don’t have the pleasure of living here. Before I moved to Brooklyn last summer, I lived in Soho, which — don’t get me wrong — is a charming neighborhood. However, as soon as the temperature rises and people venture outside to catch a glimpse of the sun, the streets get packed with tourists, the sidewalk cafes fill up, and riding your bike comes with the risk being hit by a cab or colliding with a pedestrian.

Brooklyn is a different story. I live in Williamsburg and while it’s true that there are luxury condos going up all around me, there is still some peace here and it’s a perfect place to enjoy the change of seasons. In a couple of weeks, the Brooklyn Flea will open by the waterfront where you can peruse antiques, young designers’ latest wares, and a plethora of delicious artisanal food made by local vendors. Also, unlike the city proper, practically every restaurant has outdoor seating and waiting for a table is rare. I love going to Hotel Delmano to sip on an exquisitely crafted cocktail, or wandering over to the rooftop bar at Berry Park to check out the amazing view of Manhattan, beer in hand.

Chopped Veggies

Veggies Cooking

The best part of living is Brooklyn is ease of biking wherever you want to go. It’s true that the subways are more spread out in Brooklyn, but if you are lucky enough to own a bike, you have the pleasure of being able ride from Williamsburg to Red Hook for crabs and corn hole at Brooklyn Crab in a mere 30 minutes with little traffic to worry about. If craft beer and homemade ice cream sandwiches are more your thing, there is nothing like biking over to Bierkraft where they always have about 20 tasty brews on tap. You can even take one of their awesome subs (and maybe even a growler) to go and enjoy it while soaking up some rays just a few blocks away in Prospect Park.

My friends all know I have an ongoing love affair with Brooklyn and they are probably sick of hearing about it, but I guess the thought of springtime flowers just brings out the romantic side in me. Until then, I will be enjoying this tasty soup and anxiously awaiting sixty-degree weather.

–Kaeli

Soup

Curried Red Lentil Soup with Dried Cherries and Cilantro (adapted from Meatless by Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons of canola oil
1 piece (about 2 inches) of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
1 large shallot, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 teaspoons of curry powder
course salt
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
4 cups water
1 cup dried red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1/3 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves

 

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, shallot and carrots, and cook, stirring often until softened, about 7 minutes. Add curry powder, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, 1/2 cup coconut milk, the water, and lentils, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils and carrots are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Reserving some cherries for garnish, stir cherries and chopped cilantro into soup and ladle into 4 bowls. Dividing evenly, swirl in remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk, and garnish with cherries and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

 

Lentil Meatballs with Lemon Pesto

When I was a little girl, 99 percent of the vacations my family took were camping and backpacking trips, high in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Sometime in my awkward middle school years, I joined the men in my extended family for a fairly strenuous hike — one pass led to a lake, which led to another pass and another lake, at which point, we broke out the topographical maps. My dad and I continued to a higher lake. Our yellow labrador, Jake, followed us; it was a few miles of what I would essentially call hellish gravel stairs.

We arrived at the top to find a pristine, semi-alpine lake that was likely a result of continually melting snow. I was hot, deceptively sunburnt, and exhausted (as was Jake). So Jake and I went swimming. The water chilled me to the bone, but it was worth it — even while doused in a sub-degree alpine lake, I found myself just staring, soaking up the landscape, sun, water, and snow. My dad used to tell me to remember those views and to store them in my memory, for the days that I’d find myself stuck behind some desk with some mundane task, so I’ll always have these memories to fend off office frustration.

And he was right. The frustration, just like the peace of mind, is always temporary, and will fade out when  memories like this fade in. Sometimes, I forget this sanity tactic in situations where I need it most, like behind my desk, amidst passive-aggressive office e-mails and fluorescent lights that leech onto the melanin in my skin.

But the frustration passes. The winter, the summer, the anger, the bliss: they all pass. It’s like a good hot yoga class. Your hips burn, your calves feel like they are going to burst free from your legs, and you almost give up on the hope of ever being comfortable again. But then you breath out, relax your muscles (or your mind), and upon realizing that every single solitary aspect of life is temporary, you are no longer stuck in that god-forsaken rut.

I just spent a whirlwind of a weekend in Cupertino, for the first wedding of my twenties. On the ride back to the San Francisco airport, amidst rolling hills dotted with age-old oak trees, I soaked in the landscape, and my heart ached. While the attendees dear to my heart are scattered across the country, many of them not far from me in Washington, there is something to be said about everyone traveling across the country to celebrate the love two of our friends share with each other.  Amidst the wine and the whiskey, there’s solace in simply being with the people you love, and the ones who make you feel loved.

Tomorrow, I will struggle to face a newly launched website, and a likely deluge of emails with reports of glitches, typos, and miscellaneous fires to put out.  I’ll be thinking about the rolling hills of a state that I love visiting but will probably not settle in, and I’ll be taking pride in learning to enjoy whiskey on the rocks with the boys.

 

Lentil Meatballs with Lemon Pesto (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen)

Ingredients:

Lentil “Meatballs”:
2 cups cooked French lentils
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch of fresh or dried thyme
2/3 cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon Pesto:
1 cup packed basil leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
zest and juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

If your lentils are not cooked, boil them in water for about 20 minutes, until they are soft.  Strain them, and let cool.

Once cooled, pulse grind the lentils in a food processor until they turn to mush.  I love that word.  Mush.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, cheeses, garlic, parsley, thyme, and breadcrumbs.  Once evenly mixed, add the lentil mush, and stir to mix well.  Let the mixture sit and continue cooling for another 15 or 20 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and make your pesto.  Pulse-grind the garlic and pine nuts in a food processor, and then add the basil leaves, grinding until the mixture starts looking like, well, pesto.  Add the cheese and lemon zest/juice.  Use the dripper on the top to slowly add the olive oil, while the food processor is running.  Slip in a pinch of salt and pepper each, and set the pesto aside.

Now, using your hands, start rolling the lentil mixture into 1 inch balls.  If the mixture is too wet, just stir in more breadcrumbs.

Once the baking sheet is covered, brush the tops of the meatballs with some olive oil, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve over pasta with the pesto sauce, or just eat them by themselves (that’s what I did).  I do have a hunch, though, that they would make fabulous vegetarian meatball sandwiches on a good French baguette.