I've been kind of infatuated with The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper ever since I picked it up from the library a few weeks ago. Every recipe seems to be at once practical and whimsical in an appealing way. Case in point, at its heart this recipe is a simple lentil soup, the kind of humble French fare that can soothe and comfort. Yet it is also "Coriander-Orange-Scented" with more citric juice than seems possible—and includes the first instance of sautéed cilantro stems I've ever run across.
I'm not sure how it all works. But it's fragrant and enveloping, a soup that you want to sip slowly and just smell. I think it all works because it's backed up with some solid cooking techniques. The aromatics are sautéed and then set aside so that they don't lose their punch. The citric juice is kept bright by not being added until the very end. It's a dish that would taste equally good in summer as it does in the freezing middle of winter.
Coriander-Orange-Scented Red Lentil Soup
- 1 small bunch cilantro
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 medium onions, chopped
- salt and black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, diced
- 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and diced
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
- Zest and juice 1 orange
- 1 can (14-ounce) chicken broth
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 cup red lentils
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 additional cup orange juice
Rinse and dry the cilantro. Chop off the bottom 3 inch of the stems, and then chop the stems finely. Set those aside, and then roughly chop half of the leaves. Set the other half aside for another dish.
Pour the olive oil into a large pot set over high heat. Add 2/3rds of the onions. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until they are browned. Add the cilantro stems, garlic, ginger, ground coriander seed, and orange zest. Stir well and cook for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat, and scrape contents into a bowl and set aside.
Return the cleaned pot to the stove. Add the broth, water, lentils, and the rest of the onions. Bring to a simmer and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the lentils getting tender. Add the sautéed ingredients, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Pour in the lemon juice, the juice of the zested orange, and 1/2 of the additional orange juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste the soup, if it needs more orange juice add the other 1/2 cup. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the chopped cilantro.