06 May 2012

Third Soup: Peas Be Lentil

Legumes can take a long time to cook.  I like to be home while they're cooking so I can check on them periodically--to make sure they're at a nice, cozy simmer--not bubbling over, not sticking to the pot.  While legumes do require supervision, they reward you generously with flavor.

The important thing to understand about putting lentils and peas in water, especially at boiling temperature, but really at any temperature (you can soak them, say overnight, to jump start the process) is that the interior of the lentil or pea is more concentrated than the surrounding water.  The water and the inside of the lentils and peas want to be at the same concentration.  So if you give them long enough, the insides of the peas and lentils will begin to leak into the water, making a thick, lentil and pea-flavored soup.  I also put sea salt, perhaps 1/2 teaspoon or so in the pot when I added the peas and lentils, approximately 1/2 cup each of dry, brown lentils, and dry, green split peas.

I let them simmer for 5 to 6 hours.  I think I used a 1 quart saucepan, about 4/5 full.  I didn't have to add any water after that.  The volume reduced roughly by half over the 5-to-6-hour period.  You can make as little or as much as you want.  I would go long, as this is an especially fine soup, and because you don't want to have to legume-sit for 5 to 6 hours very often.

Spices.  My method of choosing spices is pretty simple.  I take down all of the candidates, and go back and forth between the soup and the spice, smelling each of them, and deciding whether or not they would get along in the soup.  Paprika was very agreeable.  I wanted this soup to be all things warm, with a little bit of bright.  I probably added a couple teaspoons of paprika.  Cracked black pepper also went in.  It heats things up ever so slightly.  I used 1/4 teaspoon or so of pepper, freshly ground.  And garlic powder.  I know, it's not as good as fresh garlic, but it still added another dimension of warmth.  I didn't use a lot of this, maybe 1/4 teaspoon.  Then, because I like a little bit of bright in with the warm, I added about 1/3 lemon rind's worth of zest, along with a squirt of lemon juice.  I really like fresh lemon and fresh cracked pepper together.  It's a combination I discovered when working out an alternative, vegan version of bruschetta, with avocado, tomato, and olive oil.  Finally, since they also passed the test, I threw in a few fennel seeds--1/4 teaspoons few.  Fennel is something I used for the first time in a tomato soup recipe my brother gave me, and I really like it.  It's refreshing, with a complex flavor, and yet isn't as overpowering as, say mint or cilantro.

So that's my new soup.  Earthy legumes with warm paprika and pepper, sprinkled with the sunshine of lemon zest and the garden freshness of fennel.  This is soup for all seasons.  Lentils also come in other colors--yellow, orange, and green--to brighten your bowl, year-round.  For plants, lentils have a high protein content.  They're also a great source of iron (about 30% of your daily requirement), and fiber (about 60%).  Peas are also a source of protein, iron, and fiber.  And both legumes contain many additional vitamins and minerals.  Healthy and scrumptious, I recommend including legumes, and perhaps this soup, in your recipe box for a good life.