Top | Local Flavors
(article, Deborah Madison)
Lentil soups are a favorite on cold, wet days, but they’re surprisingly good on hot ones, too. Especially this soup, which has a huge amount of greens and a tart fresh sorrel sauce. It’s park-bench green, but as refreshing as a pale green cucumber soup, and more substantial by far. The greens can be almost any, but the goosefoots — chard, spinach, beet greens, and others — are particularly well-represented here. [%image soup float=right width=400 caption="Summer lentil soup."] You needn't stick to just one type of green; a mix is more interesting. Nettles and sorrel offer more piquancy, and if you have them, by all means use them. For herbs, dill and cilantro are featured, and for spices, toasted cumin and coriander. I’ve made countless lentil soups with greens, usually without a recipe and just improvising with what’s around, and the combination is always excellent. Do cover your lentils with boiling water while you start the soup. They’ll cook more quickly and leave the greens fresher than if they have to cook for 45 minutes. Green Lentil Soup with Plenty of Leaves, Herbs, and Spices 1 cup lentils (any type but red; I prefer Le Puy) 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups) 2 to 4 Tablespoons olive oil 2 teaspoons toasted ground cumin ½ teaspoon ground coriander seeds 2 teaspoons salt 1 Tablespoon medium-grain rice A few pinches of red-pepper flakes 1 big handful of cilantro, roughly chopped (about 1 cup) 1 smaller handful of dill, roughly chopped (about ½ cup) 12 cups (about 9 to 10 ounces each) packed greens, such as chard or a mixture of greens (see Note above), chopped into 1-to-2-inch pieces Freshly ground pepper Sorrel Sauce, below, or plain yogurt, or fresh lemon juice Rinse the lentils, then cover them with boiling water and let stand while you gather and prepare the rest of your ingredients. Heat the oil in a wide soup pot. Add the onion, give it a stir, and cook for about 5 minutes to soften some. Stir in the cumin, coriander, salt, rice, cilantro, and dill, and cook another 5 minutes or longer, then add the greens. Give them a stir, then drain the lentils and add them, along with 8 cups water or stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are sufficiently soft. If they soaked, it shouldn’t take much longer. Taste the soup for salt, and season with pepper. At this point you can serve the soup just as it is with a dollop of yogurt or Sorrel Sauce, or you can purée the soup, ending up with a dark green soup that’s neither too thin nor too thick. Again, stir in the finishing yogurt or sauce or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice into each bowlful. Or if it’s just you, plan to eat this soup all week and feel the better for it. The soup makes two quarts and serves eight. Sorrel Sauce with Yogurt or Sour Cream 2 cups sorrel leaves 1/3 cup full-fat yogurt or sour cream Pinch or two of sea salt Slivered chives or garlic chives If the leaves are large, fold them and pull out the stems, then tear them into large pieces. Put them in a food processor with the yogurt, salt, and garlic, and purée. Stir in the chives and taste for salt before serving.