I absolutely love lentil soup. It is definitely up there with chicken soup, but when I am looking for that hearty comfort food, lentil soup is what I crave.
Last month, we were in Groton, Connecticut, moving Jeff's daughter from one apartment to another within the same complex. We rented a moving truck in Mystic and moved her in record time. As we were returning the truck, we saw a little place called The Pita Spot. It looked inviting, we were starving, perfect match. When we got inside, we weren't sure what to expected. We were seated and we looked through the menu. We wanted something light so the waitress suggested the sampler, where we could choose three items from the hot and cold appetizers. Jeff and I decided to split a bowl of lentil soup along with a sampler to include baba ghannouj, moussaka and the best of thyme mediterranean flatbread.
When the lentil soup arrived, with spoons in hand, Jeff and I dove in. OMG, can I say, "Oh, my god!" this was amazing! Nothing like I had expected. There was lemon and spice and the flavor was just amazing. With each bite, we tried to figure out the different ingredients. I had lemon and couldn't figure the spice, could be cinnamon...maybe cloves, but it was just a pinch. There were greens, which we thought were kale. Anyway you spooned it, it was delicious. Then the baba ghannouj, moussaka and flatbread finished the amazing experience. The mousaka was loaded with tomatoes, eggplant and chickpeas. The flatbread had one of my favorites - zahtar. I love zahtar, especially when it is mixed with olive oil and then spread on flatbread.
Leaving, completely satisfied, I was going home to figure out the lentil soup recipe. I had not heard of Lebanese lentil soup, but I was going to make it again. I looked up quite a few recipes and tried a few different combinations. Well, they say, third times a charm...I think I hit it. After two other attempts, I think this batch was the best. This version is very good, not as good as The Pita Spot, but since I can't go to Mystic on a regular basis, I think this will hold us over until we can get back.
Lebanese Lemon Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard Recipe
1 bag of GOYA Lentils (16 ounce bag)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
8 cups of chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon (you will need the juice of one lemon and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon rind)
4 cups of roughly chopped swiss chard (or kale)
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large dutch oven or pot, over medium heat, heat three tablespoons of olive oil, add the onion, carrots and celery, cook for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
2. Add the lentils, chicken broth, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 45 minutes to one hour or until the lentils are tender. Place 1 (full) cup of the lentil mixture into a food processor and process to a liquid. Add this liquid back into the soup.
3. Increase heat to medium and add the kale, cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, take out the cinnamon stick and bay leaf, stir in the lemon rind, lemon juice and cilantro. Stir and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.