A couple of weeks ago, my husband, son and I headed out to celebrate my birthday. It was a cold snowy night here in the northern U.S. As we headed into town, my son said “Why don’t we go to another restaurant?” Really? Another restaurant? This is MY birthday I thought. He was referring to the Middle Eastern restaurant downtown, a quiet, small place that serves amazing authentic Middle Eastern food. I didn’t argue because, the weather was terrible and this place was certainly more conveniently located than the one I originally had in mind. The snow kept getting worse and I finally relented. Boy, am I glad I did!
My meal came with a Middle Eastern lentil soup that was simple, but gloriously flavorful and comforting. One spoonful and I was in love. My husband and son had to try of course! They both said “you need to make this at home.” So here we are, on a cold but sunny day I experimented and succeeded. I got a thumbs up from both of them. This recipe only has a few basic ingredients, but it is so delicious, you would think otherwise. The idea to use allspice was my son’s. I agree that it gives a lot of depth to the overall flavor. The lemon infusion at the end brightens up the flavors of this fabulous Middle Eastern lentil soup. One great thing about lentils is that they don’t take as long to soften as other beans, so this Middle Eastern soup can be made in very little time.
Lentils are thought to have originated in Central Asia, and one of the first foods to have been cultivated nearly 8,000 years ago. Lentils are mentioned in the Bible on a couple of occasions: Jacob traded his brother Esau his birthright for a bowl of lentils. Jacob was hungry after spending all day working in the fields. Lentils were also used by the Jewish people to make a bread during the exile years in Babylon. Today the leading producers of lentils are: India, Syria, China and Turkey. Lentils are super healthy! 1 cup of lentils has 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of dietary fiber. Lentils are also rich in B vitamins, potassium, Calcium and Zinc.
- 1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
- 1½ Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 stalk celery diced
- 2 carrots diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 7 cups vegetable broth
- 3 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt
- ⅛ tsp. allspice
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice.
- In a soup pot heat olive oil. Add the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent. Add 4 cups of broth and the lentils. Bring to a boil and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add cumin, salt, and allspice. Turn down heat and allow to simmer for about 30-40 minutes.
- Using an immersion blender blend solids thoroughly.
- Add the remaining broth and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice.