I’m always unreasonably sad when summer comes to end each September.
Easy breezy Southern California summers are what I most enjoy about living in Los Angeles – the farmers’ markets are brimming with corn, sweet summer berries and stone fruits, sundresses are the default weekend uniform, and everyone seems to be a little bit happier – a little less stressed.
I love that I can walk outside at night without a coat, wrap, sweater, or jacket like I do at every other time of year because I’m allergic to any temperature below 70 degrees. I love that the sun is still shining at 7 pm. I also love the lighter load on the freeways during my morning commute – God bless students and those who can afford to go on an exotic vacation.
Yet even with my desire for it to stay summer forever, when LA was blasted with a bolt of unseasonably cold weather two weekends ago, suddenly I wasn’t in such a rush to see it go. It seemed to me like a last call for winter – a final hoorah before spring fully took over and started winding into my favorite season of the year.
Suddenly, I felt a dire sense of urgency to take advantage of the chill in the air. I had to pack as much winter into my weekend as possible – by layering on sweatpants and cuddly sweaters, and by making cold weather foods like pasta and soup.
This recipe for a curried lentil soup from Molly Wizenberg has been lingering in the back of my mind since I first discovered it in Bon Appetít’s December 2010 issue. I was intrigued by the addition of pureed chickpeas – undoubtedly because I’ve developed an obsession with them in the past six months. But the thickness that the puree lends to the broth makes the recipe fall solidly into the winter category. During the summer it would be suffocating – too hot, too hearty, too much for a season that revolves around salad and foods from the grill.
With spring already in full gear, it seemed imperative that I make the cozy soup while there was still a whisper of winter left in the air.
It’s a Plain Jane sort of dish – not particularly showy on its own accord – more like a nicely tailored little black dress that is the ideal template for accessories. One day I roasted some red peppers for a garnish, the next day I tossed in a few florets of roasted cauliflower, and the next I topped it with an almost obscene amount of cilantro. By the time I reached the last spoonful, I finally felt ready to say goodbye to the cold weather I never thought I wanted.
But should it decide to sneak its way back into Southern California in the next month or two, I won't be all that sad to retire my sundress and glass of Rosé to pull on an oversized sweater and whip up another pot of this winter-ready soup.
Curried Lentil Soup
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s recipe in the December 2010 issue of Bon Appetít
Makes 4 entrée sized portions
Adaptations: I doubled the amount of onion, carrot, garlic, and reduced the amounts of olive oil and butter, using extra lemon juice instead of the olive oil in the chickpea puree. I also used chicken broth instead of water, and included optional garnishes – the cilantro is my favorite.
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced, divided
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 cups French green lentils (I used regular green lentils with no adverse effects)
4 ½ cups (or more) chicken broth, divided
1 15- to 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into four wedges
Optional Garnishes: Roasted red pepper, roasted cauliflower, or cilantro
Heat large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the olive oil, swirling to coat the base of the pot. Add the onion and carrot, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until onion in translucent, stirring occasionally, about 5-8 minutes. Add 2/3rds of the chopped garlic, stir until vegetables are soft, but not brown, about 4 minutes longer. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils and 4 cups chicken broth. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, and remaining garlic in processor.
Add chickpea puree and butter to lentil soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired. Add water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency. Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle with thinly sliced green onions or other optional garnishes and serve with lemon wedges.