I made this soup pretty frequently back when I was in law school. For one thing, it's a pretty cheap meal. For another, the quick throw-stuff-in-a-pot-and-let-it-simmer approach to cooking was perfect during exams time. I'd sit at the kitchen table and be comforted by my soon to be ready piping hot bowl of savory goodness as I studied. At some point a mouse moved into the kitchen of the house I was renting, residing somewhere beneath my oven. Whenever this soup was cooking, he'd pop his little head out of one of the burners that weren't then being used and turn his nose up in the air, sniffing away. I didn't really mind. It was cute and I took it as a compliment. I did get a little nervous at times that I'd light a burner without realizing he was approaching, so I got in the habit of banging on the stovetop to scare him away before lighting up, just in case.
We eventually did have to get rid of the mouse and, as I discovered, his family. As cute as I thought they were, I just wasn't comfortable with the thought of them scampering all over my dishes and utensils while I wasn't looking. I'm happy to say that we caught them all with humane traps and relocated them to Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, where they (as far as I'm concerned) lived out the rest of their little mouse lives happily.
A pot of soup bubbling away on the stove top still never fails to bring me comfort, and this is a simmer away kind of soup. We had some wintry weather in my area during the last week and I took advantage of the opportunity to make a big ol' batch of this soup. I've been making this stuff for years and every time I ask myself why I don't make it more often. In addition to the aromatic simmering enjoyment it brings, this soup is incredibly healthy, hearty and wonderfully delicious. It's also one of those dishes that is even better on the second day. Those little red lentils cook up quicker than lots of other dried legumes, taking only thirty minutes or so to get nice and tender, but stick a pot of this in the fridge overnight and they really soak up some juice, turning this delicious soup into a super-thick hearty belly warming stew.
Mediterranean Red Lentil Soup
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large or 1 small red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
6 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (could sub a 14 oz. can)
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley
Harissa to taste (just if you like some spicy)
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sautee until softened, about five minutes. Add garlic, cumin and coriander, and sautee another minute or so. Add lentils, broth and tomato. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover, and allow to continue simmering until lentils are soft, about thirty minutes. Add lemon juice, ladle into bowls and top with fresh cilantro or parsley and harissa.