Nat’s Classic Lentil Soup

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Here’s the Lentil Soup I made for church today that I received quite a few compliments on. So I thought I’d share the recipe.

Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (450 g) brown lentils
  • 2 carrots
  • 3-4 potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 celery stems
  • 1 can dices tomatoes
  • Water – about half of your cooking pot or 2-3 inches above the lentils
  • Salt to taste (can also use any seasoned salt mixes like “Vegeta” or “Vegit”,
  • or your favorite brand of stock/broth, or bouillon cubes)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and/or 3-5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • Other spices – feel free to experiment!

Preparation:

It is said that, unlike other types of dry beans, lentils do not require soaking. However, soaking will help make lentils easier to digest and will prevent gas. So it won’t hurt to soak your lentils for a few hours. Drain and discard the water the lentils were soaking in (this water contains the starchy proteins that cause gas) and rinse the lentils a few times.

Put the lentils in the cooking pot and fill it with new water to the level of about 2-3 inches aove the lentils. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to simmer.

Usually, when lentils (and any other beans) get to a boil, a white-gray foam appears on the surface of the liquid. This foam contains water-soluble protein released from the beans. Again, some people say it is not necessary to remove the foam and that it will eventually be absorbed back into the cooking liquid. But it will help digestion and prevent gas if you skim the foam. So if you want to make the lentils more stomach-friendly (like I do) then you’ll need to skim the foam a few times until there is nothing lieft to skim.

In the meantime, while the lentils are simmering (about 10-15 minutes), wash, peel, and cut your vegetables the way you like them, and prepare all your other ingredients.

All the ingredients, except onions and carrots go directly into the simmering soup. It is at this point that you can add all your spices and salt to taste. (Don’t add salt to boiling lentils at the beginning as this is said to harden them.)

Saute onions and carrots in some vegetable oil until soft (about 5-7 minutes) and add them to the soup when they are ready.

Let the soup simmer a bit more – for about another 10 minutes or until the veggies and lentils are soft and done. Then turn the heat off, cover the pot with a lid, and let it sit there until it’s time to eat. (For an optional “Russian oven” effect throw a couple of thick kitchen towels on top of the pot – to keep it warm longer.) The soup will taste even better the next day as all the “juices” will blend together. Enjoy! :-)


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Russian Cabbage Soup

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Today my Russian Mama made our favorite “Shchee” – a traditional Russian cabbage soup. I ate one bowl for the “first course”, another bowl for the “second course”, and would have eaten a third bowl for “dessert”, if I had room left in my stomach! :-)

Russian Cabbage Soup

The recipe comes from our Babushka (Grandmother), and she knew it from her mother… So this is our traditional Russian family cabbage soup recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 liters (8-10 cups) water
  • 1/2 head of a small cabbage (about 700 grams)
  • 4-5 medium/small potatoes
  • 3-4 medium/small carrots
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes (400 grams)
  • 2 medium 0nions
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • salt/pepper/sugar to taste
  • Fresh parsley and dill to taste
  • Vegetable oil 2-3 table spoons (to sauté onions)

Preparation:

  1. Fill the cooking pot with water and set it on the burner to boil.
  2. In the meantime, start chopping all the veggies (dice the potatoes, shred the cabbage, and slice the carrots) and throw them into a large bowl (or into any other temporary container).
  3. As soon as the water boils, dump all the chopped veggies into the pot. Water stops boiling. When water boils again, set the burner at a low-medium temperature for the soup to simmer “happily”.In the meantime, chop the onions and sauté them on a skillet in vegerable oil. When the onions become transparent and semi-browned, add diced tomatoes together with their juice from the can. Stir everything up, add salt, black ground pepper and a pinch of sugar to taste. Let it simmer for a minute or two for the flavors to combine.
  4. Add the contents of the skillet to the pot with the soup. Stir, and when the soup starts boiling again, reduce the heat to a minimum simmer.
  5. At this time, finely chop the garlic and the fresh herbs and add to the pot. If desired, can also add another table spoon of vegetable oil right into the soup this time – for the appetizing look of a “rich” broth.
  6. Stir the soup again, bring to a boil, turn the heat off completely, cover with a lid, and let it sit for 5-7 minutes before serving.

Totall cooking time is approximately 15-20 minutes. Don’t cook it too long or on a heat too high, or else the cabbage will get “cooked to death”. It needs to retain just a hint of a crunch in it.

When serving, add some more chopped garlic and fresh herbs into individual bowls, on top of the soup. If desired, can add a drop of sour cream (or vegan-friendly mayonnaise) on top.

There are two types of people – those who love their Borsch or Schee WITH sour cream, and those who love it WITHOUT sourcream – for a more “authentic” taste of all the ingredients. (I am a “with sour cream” person, and my Mom is the “without” type.) Find out which type you are and let me know in your comments! :-)

 


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Broiled Salmon

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This turned out to be the easiest, juciest, yummiest salmon ever! OK, maybe I am exagerrating a bit, but only a little bit! :-)

Broiled Salmon

Broiled Salmon a-la Nat :-)

Today is an Orthodox church feast day – Transfiguration, it happens during the period of a stict 2-week fast, and just this one day fish is allowed. Naturally, I was ready for my fish today!

I am in Moscow, Russia right now, visiting my Mom, so I walked across the street to our local market and got a nice fresh salmon steak, cooled off, not frozen.

Unlike the stuff you’d expect to buy in the US (boneless, skinless, all cleaned, lying on a tray, sealed with a plastic wrap), this thing was just cut off from a big salmon body and given to me in a plastic bag. That’s Russia for ya!

Anyway, here’s what I did with it… Portion-wise, it was just for my Mom and me, so I made just one salmon steak. It was of a ‘pretty good’ size though. We each had a half, and it was plenty.

In a bowl, I mixed together

  • 1 tea spoon of honey
  • 1 tea spoon of mustard (don’t ask me “which” – It’s Russia, so ANY mustard!)
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • A little bit of salt and black pepper

I rinsed the salmon steak in cold water, patted it dry with a paper towel, and put into this mixture to marinade a little. I didn’t have much time (we were both hungry! LOL!), so – maybe about 5 minuntes on one side, then I flipped it over, and let the other side marinade for another 5 minutes.

Then I took the salmon steak out of the marinade and put it on a small baking dish, and stuck it into a… well… actually, what my Mom has is a combination of a microwave with what they call a “grill” (2 totally separate modes of cooking built into one gadget, you can choose which one, or a combination of both). So I chose the “grill” setting, but really it’s what you would call a convection oven (or roaster oven), on a broil setting.

I let it cook for 20 minutes (just set the timer). If I had known where my Mom kept her cooking brush, I would have probably brushed some more marinade on the salmon in the middle of the cooking, but I didn’t… so I didn’t. :-)

After 20 minutes I pulled it out… Ohhhh my gosh!!! It looked PERFECT! It had a browned slightly crispy top, and yet it was SOOOOO juicy inside you wouldn’t believe it until you tried it!

I had never done broiled salmon before, this was my first try, and I am surprised myself how well it turned out, and how fast and easy it was to make it. Do give it a try – and then let me know how you loved it! :-)


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Middle Eastern Lentil Soup

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This Middle Eastern Lentil Soup will pleasantly surprise you! We are in the middle of Lent now (a long fast before Easter that for the Orthodox Christians lasts 7 weeks, with pretty much the Vegan diet food-wise) and David decided to make some Middle Eastern lentil soup. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting anything special out of a lentil soup – after all, lentils are lentils… Boy was I wrong!

When I finally was allowed to take a taste, all the little neurons in my brain burst out in colorful sparkles!

I commented this on David’s Facebook wall,

You’ll be surprised by the “multifaceted” flavor of this soup! It was a totally new experience for my Russian taste buds! I couldn’t even describe it in terms of food taste – it “tasted” like a middle-eastern market street on a sunny day, with exotic foods and spices and colorful merchandise on display… Arabic dance music playing on the background… a colorful Persian shawl… a shimmering coin necklace of a young and pretty belly-dancer… OK, I’d better not go that way. :-)

Ingredients:

This makes about 6 servings.

For the Lentil Soup:

  • 1 pound dry brown or green lentils
  • 3 quarts vegetable stock or water
  • 1 can coconut milk (12 oz) – “secret ingredient”! :-)
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 small serrano or habanero pepper (seeds and ribs removed), finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 table spoon your favorite hot sauce
  • 1 table spoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • Sea salt (or Kosher salt)

For the Gremolata:

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 small serrano or habanero pepper (seeds and ribs removed), finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh zest from 1 orange

Finely chop all the Gremolata ingredients, transfer into a small bowl or tupperware container, and set aside.

Preparation:

Heat vegetable (or olive) oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Add garlic, ginger, serrano pepper, ground cumin and coriander, and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.

Add vegetable stock, coconut milk, bay leaves, and lentils. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down and leave the soup to simmer gently for about 1 hour, or until the lentils are completely tender and have started to break down. Stir occasionally, and feel free to sneak a taste to check the ‘doneness’ of the lentils!

When the lentils are done, turn the soup off. Discard the bay leaves. Add copped cilantro, soy sauce, hot sauce, lime juice, and salt to taste. Stir to evenly incorporate the seasonings.

Serve soup in individual bowls, sprinkled with the fresh Gremolata on top. Or serve Gremolata on the side, so that everyone could add the desired amount to their own taste. Enjoy!!!

Middle Eastern Lentil Soup


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