Monday, June 20, 2011

The Soup Project: Red Lentil Soup with Mint and Chard

I am lousy at following recipes and always have been. When I made sugar cookies at age 7, I added baking soda instead of baking powder and wondered why the cookies had a metalic flavor. At least twice in my life, I've left the rising ingredient out of a cake or brownies with disasterous consequences. News flash--no one wants to eat brownies spooned out of the pan. But soup mistakes, that's another story.

Thankfully, soups are forgiving.

I give you this warning because I followed a recipe for my soup of the week and I had a few issues. First, I must mention that I found the recipe at the Pennywise Platter on The Nourishing Gourmet. (Check it out because these are delicious healthy budget friendly recipes. Love the blogging carnivals.) Anyway one recipe intrigued me--Red Lentil Soup with Mint and Beet Greens. It wasn't the title or the main ingredients but the recipe used mint and coriander and blended an egg in at the end of cooking.

And as for the beets--in the Northwest, we are between seasons for most root vegetables, except potatoes. The overwintered crowd is gone and new spring roots, save for turnips, haven't arrived yet. Chard was my best bet because beets and chard are cousins and the recipe didn't specify using the roots.

Chard in the spring is stunning with bright pink and yellow stems and vibrant leaves, but chard should be eaten soon after picking because the leaves are more fragile than they look. Go ahead stuff them in the vegetable bin and then you'll see fragile.

Carrots weren't listed in the recipe either but they're always a sweet addition to soup.

Celery was the only vegetable I bought at the store. Local celery is in season in the near the end of summer and beginning of fall in the Northwest. The celery I got was organic because it's always on the list for the most pesticide laden ridden vegetables. One farmer also told me that stalk celery soaks up lots of soil nutrients too, called it a "heavy feeder." But that's another story.

Also since I had shallots, I used them instead of onions, but I wouldn't use shallots next time because they are a pricy onion substitute, and with so many ingredients, the delicate flavor of shallots totally disappeared here.

The original recipe also listed bulger, but I have so much quinoa since a friend gave me a Cost Co size bag of it, plus I wanted make my $100 food budget for two people go farther.

And then there was the potato. I don't think Tom thinks a soup is a soup unless it has potatoes in it and I had this one that I'd been considering planting.

I cooked this soup in my new pressure cooker thanks to the inspiration from The Veggie Queen. I made a few changes and I made one big mistake that I didn't even notice until we were enjoying the soup. Thankfully, mistakes in soup (as long is it's not burned or oversalted) can be fun.

One thing about quinoa-- it soaks up liquid like as sponge. Don't stress when you have to add more water the next day and if you want to make this soup with bulger, check out the original recipe:

Red Lentil Soup with Mint and Chard
(Serves 4)

3 shallots or 1 onions, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 medium ot 6 small carrots, sliced
1 bunch chard, leaves removed, reserved, and stems sliced
A dozen or so mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well
6 cups water
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Extra mint for garnish

Heat a soup pot or bottom of the pressure cooker over medium heat. Add shallots or onion and oil. Stir to coat, then cook until onions are translucent. Add garlic, celery, carrots, chard stems and cook for a few minutes longer.

Remove from heat. Add mint leaves, salt, coriander, tomato, red lentils, quinoa and water. Lock lid in place, turn heat on high and bring to high pressure. Lower heat to maintain pressure. Cook for 6 minute. Allow pressure to come down naturally while you make salad and slice bread.

Stir in chard leaves, until lightly cooked. Add egg, if desired. (I forgot to add the egg, but the soup was so good neither one of us noticed until we'd eaten quite a bit.)

Add freshly ground pepper, most salt and more mint leaves, if desired. Add lemon juice to taste.

Quinoa imparts a simple beauty and delicate flavor to this soup. If quinoa was a fabric it would be lace.

Good scents always wake up my favorite Cooking Assistant.

I think my version looks quite different from the original recipe, but see for yourself. And the missing egg? I don't think I missed it, and maybe I saved some money leaving it for another meal this week.

Happy Meatless Monday!

Be sure to check out my other blog tomorrow for an interview with Jill Nussinow, pressure cooking advocate and author of The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Cooks Whole Food Meals in Minutes.

I couldn't disappoint Finn, he takes his job as prop in cooking photo very seriously.


Miz Helen said...

I love the addition of mint and chard in your great recipe. I have both of those in my garden. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful week!
Miz Helen

Katie @ This Chick Cooks said...

What a pretty looking soup. It sounds delicious. I am your newest follower and I'm looking forward to seeing more of your vegetarian recipes. Every Wedesnday I host a recipe spotlight where you can come and show off your best recipes. I'd love for you to stop by!
Ps- You dog is a cutie!

Torviewtoronto said...

delicious looking combination of flavours

ddzeller said...

The mint and coriander were pretty amazing. Thanks so much for stopping by. I'd love to stop by your blog on Wednesday Katie!

Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) said...

I'm so glad you tried this and liked it!! Thanks for linking back to my blog. I'll have to try your version too. My family would especially like the addition of potatoes. Great idea.

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