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Leila Abu-Saba's Egyptian Red Lentil Soup
(recipe, Molly O'Neill)
Leila Abu-Saba's father is a first-generation Lebanese Christian who came to the United States to study at Virginia Tech; her mother is a Southerner and the daughter of a Methodist minister. "My parents were progressive, cosmopolitan people," says Ms. Abu-Saba, who studies environmental issues and policy. "I inherited a little of their talent for trading worldviews and recipes." She first tasted this soup in the home of an Egyptian Muslim during Ramadan, the month-long Islamic observance dedicated to purification through prayer and self-sacrifice; observant celebrants also fast from sunrise to sunset. The evening meal often includes humble but satisfying soups like this one.
- 2 Tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 7 cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth or low-sodium store-bought vegetable or chicken broth, plus more as needed
- 1¾ cups red lentils
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- ½ tsp. ground turmeric
- ⅓ cup chopped cilantro
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
- Toasted pita-bread wedges, for serving
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook about 4 minutes, until soft. Stir in the broth and lentils, bring to a simmer, and cook about 30 minutes, until the lentils dissolve, adding more broth as needed.
- Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and turmeric and cook about 1 minute, until aromatic.
- Before serving, stir the spices, cilantro, and lemon juice into the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and serve with pita and lemon wedges.