Sunday, May 13, 2018

Smoky Lentil Soup With Picada

We love all things lentil and this Spanish-style lentil soup is a favorite! Lentil soup can serve as a main dish, light meal or as a starter. 

The soup begins with preparing a flavorful base called sofrito, common to most soups, an aromatic combination of onion, celery, and carrots (love to add lots of carrots which add color, texture, and sweetness) plus garlic, tomato and smoky roasted peppers. The soup is finished with a nutty picada, a thick pesto-like sauce made of toasted bread, almonds, garlic, parsley, and a bit of olive oil. Typically the bread is fried in oil; but in order to keep the oil to a minimum, I opted to toast it instead. The soup is delicious just as it is, but the picada takes it to the next level. Picada is usually added towards the end of cooking.


Leftovers are fabulous for about a week or maybe frozen for up to 3 months. Or, turn the delicious leftovers into a yummy casserole: stir the soup into cooked grains and bake under a light blanket of your favorite vegan cheese and a sprinkle of seasoned regular/gluten-free bread or cracker crumbs until heated through and the crumbs are golden and crisp. 


Notes: 

The picada and sofrito maybe made ahead and kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen for longer storage. If you prepare extra sofrito, it can be added to boost the flavor of sauces, soups, stews, etc.


Parsnips maybe subbed for some or all of the carrots with great results. 

Instead of all almonds in the picada, half almonds and half hazel nuts maybe used.


Roasted piquillo peppers (available already roasted in jars/cans in the Latin Foods section of markets), maybe used instead of the roasted red bell peppers; use about 1/2 cup.

Servings

Picada

Ingredients:

2 slices day-old baguette or 1 slice Italian bread (about 1/2-inch thick)

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
1 Garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp whole or slivered Almonds, skinless
4 Tbsp flat-leaf or Italian Parsley, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste

Method:

Trim off the crust 
 from the bread slices if you like. Toast the bread using a toaster until just golden; but not too browned. Cool and cut or break up the bread into small cubes or pieces.


Toast the almonds in a dry skillet until light gold and fragrant; or use purchased toasted unsalted almonds. Pour into a plate and let cool.


Alternatively, the bread cut into cubes and almonds maybe toasted together for about 7-8 minutes or until light gold on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree F oven. Remove promptly, pour into a cool plate and let cool.


Cook the garlic in one teaspoon of the olive oil in a small skillet over low-medium heat stirring frequently until just beginning to turn golden, about 2 - 3 minutes or so. 


Remove the pan from heat and let cool. 


Transfer the bread and the almonds to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until finely chopped.


Tip in the garlic with any oil remaining in the skillet, rest of the oil, and the parsley to the food processor bowl with the almond mixture. 


Pulse until finely chopped and well mixed for a coarse picada, or a few more times for a smooth paste (you may add a bit more olive oil a little at a time if you like to obtain a more sauce-like consistency). Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to pound the picada into a coarse or smooth paste.


Spoon into a bowl or jar with a well-fitting lid.


If made ahead, keep the picada in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to six months.


Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

2 cups Lentils, soaked for 30 minutes and rinsed
1-3 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large Onion, finely diced
1-2 Celery ribs, finely diced
large Carrot, finely diced
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
2 large Red Bell Peppers (freshly roasted/purchased), coarsely chopped
1 (28-oz) can whole Tomatoes, divided
1 Tbsp fresh Thyme, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1-2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Cayenne (optional)
2 Bay Leaves
3-4 cups Vegetable Broth or water
1 to 3 Tbsp Picada, or to taste 
4 Tbsp Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped

Method:

Soak the lentils in lots of water to cover for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain, rinse, and place in a pot.


Cook the lentils until quite tender in water to cover. Cooking maybe done using a regular pot, a pressure cooker or an instant pot. Set aside until needed.


Drain the tomatoes over a bowl to catch all the juices; crush the tomatoes coarsely with your hand or use a blender and keep them and the juices separate.

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. 

Add  the oil, 
bay leaves, and onion with a pinch of salt, and cook covered until soft but not browned, stirring occasionally, about 7 to 8 minutes over low-medium heat. Sprinkle a little water if the onions dry out.

Tip in the celery and carrot and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until softened - about 7 minutes or so. 

Stir in the garlic and cook for about another minute until garlic is softened.


Tip the crushed tomato pieces into the onion mixture and cook for a minute or two, stirring well until hot and well mixed.


Add the tomato juices, bell peppers, thyme, turmeric, smoked paprika, cayenne if using, cooked lentils with the cooking broth, salt, and freshly ground pepper.


Stir in some or all of the vegetable broth as needed to get the right consistency.

Add boiling water to thin the soup, if needed. B
ring the soup to a boil. 

When the soup comes a boil, lower the heat, and simmer partially covered for about 15 to 20 minutes stirring occasionally. 


Stir in enough of the picada to flavor the soup to your taste and continue to simmer for a couple of minutes. 


Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley, cover, and let rest for 5-10 minutes. 


Remove the bay leaves and discard them. Taste the soup and add more picada or seasonings if needed.


Serve hot and pass the rest of the picada at the table.

Enjoy!!

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