When I was growing up, I, like most children, abhorred cleaning my room. It wasn’t so much the process that irked me, but rather the commandment behind it.
“Clean your room!” My father would bellow from the depths of his rounded gut.
He always chose the worst moments for the order. Like when I was in the middle of watching the Little Mermaid for the twenty-fifth time, or when I had just started playing house with my dolls.
As my little fists shook with frustration, I’d jut my chin out into the crossest face I could muster and snottily respond, “No!”
My tart answer never went over very well, and more often than not I’d have to clean my room and pull out the weeds from the flower bed in the backyard. The whole ordeal only enhanced my desire to do what I wanted when I wanted, and to this day I still feel inclined to do the exact opposite when someone tells me to do something.
Such was this case last Monday when my dear college friend Ali sent me an e-mail telling me about a coriander-orange-scented red lentil soup recipe she’d discovered on Serious Eats. While her e-mail was intended to be courteous – sweet even – I took it to be a commandment for me to make the soup. I jutted my now larger chin out in protest and thought to myself, “No! I will not make that weird-sounding soup!”
Of course, since I have far superior manners than I did as a petulant child, I sent Ali a noncommittal response back about how much I love using citrus and zest in my cooking. Then I promptly sent the e-mail chain into my trash.
As the week wore on however, the soup started to nudge its way back into the forefront of my consciousness. I was battling a cold, the weather was turning stormy again, and a cuddly bowl of citrus-infused soup started sounding better and better to me.
This past Saturday morning, I did a quick search through my deleted e-mails and found the recipe again. While I was fearful of the amount of onion, orange zest and fresh orange juice listed, I trusted Ali’s palate (she may be a bigger food snob than me) and soldiered on.
Like Ali, I used just chicken broth rather than a combination of both chicken broth and water like the original recipe, and I added roasted red peppers at the end to give the soup a bit more girth and color. The sweet peppers played well with the slight bitter tang of the orange juice and earthy cilantro. Despite my initial predisposition to hate the soup, I gobbled the entire pot up and immediately e-mailed Ali to tell her how much I loved it.
“Are you going to mention this in your blog? Can you mention me?” She asked via e-mail later that day.
At the sight of her request, my fists clenched up in tight knots, my eyes narrowed, and my chin started to jut out yet again.
“Nooo…” I started thinking.
And then I realized something – I wanted to mention her.
“I already have the whole post written in my head.” I typed back. “You will be a very big star!”
Of course, in my mind, she already is one.
Coriander-Orange-Scented Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from Serious Eats (recipe originally from The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper)
Makes 1 main course-sized portion
1 tablespoon finely diced cilantro stems
1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro leaves
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup red lentils
½ a red pepper, cut into thin ¾ inch-long strips
½ teaspoon ginger, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon orange zest
Juice from 1 orange
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt, pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375. Toss red pepper strips with a splash of olive oil and roast in a baking dish until soft (approximately 20-25 minutes).
Wash and dry the cilantro. Cut off the bottom 3 inches of the stems (I only cut off an inch since my cilantro bunch was fairly short), and then chop finely. Set aside, and then mince the leaves.
Pour splash of olive oil into a medium-sized 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 chicken broth, lentils, and the rest of the onions. Bring to a simmer and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the lentils are getting tender. Add the sautéed ingredients, cover the pot, and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
Remove the lid, and add the lemon juice, orange juice and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into a bowl and garnish with the chopped cilantro.