My TV food fantasy game-show involves a handsome chef bursting through the door and offering to make dinner with whatever is in my cupboards. No trips to the grocery store allowed. In the fantasy, I stand back embarrassed by the emptiness of my refrigerator, but handsome chef only grins, pulls out a bottle of wine (allowed for the homeowner as per the rules of Let’s make a Meal) and tells me to sit back while he turns my barren shelves into a culinary orgasm.
Since I’ve been away in Miami, the carnivore has been in charge of re-stocking the fridge which is generally done on a as-needed basis involving the slaughter of some sort of fresh prey. I should have rushed to the grocery store upon touchdown, but instead, I opted to unearth my neglected rock garden and hope for the Let’s Make a Meal chef to show up.
Late in the day with my game-show hopes shattered, I reluctantly opened the fridge. A quick survey revealed only two onions, four cloves of dried up garlic, four semi-shrivelled carrots, two wrinkled Lemons, a slightly out-dated package of Portuguese Chourico and a package of thin sliced pork that with a buy before date of the day before.
The challenge was great, but not impossible. I opened a bottle of wine and opted to become the chef on Let’s make a Meal. With a pantry stocked with enough canned and dried goods to last through the apocalypse, this would be a breeze (provided the meat passed my sniff test.) There would be no trips to the grocery store.
The carnivore immediately set his sights on Chourico and Chicken sliders with pork as the substitute, using the lovely freezer burnt mini-portuguese buns in the freezer drawer.
I had to give him a A for creativity, but his meal was devoid of all vegetables. It was then that I remembered a recipe for Melissa Clark’s Red Lentil and Lemon Soup posted recently in the New York Times as one of the 10 best recipes of 2015.
And after all, I’d been trying to get a decent bowl of lentil soup for weeks.
I rummaged through my pantry and miraculously had the necessary ingredients. Well, sort of. I substituted the required tomato paste with a can of diced tomatoes. And I didn’t have cilantro, but I motored on determined to win the game. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it in 5 simple steps and it calls for only 7 key ingredients (8 if you include the cilantro, but who’s counting). It’s seriously one of the most simple and delicious soups I’ve made—healthy too!
While the carnivore fired up the grill for the sliders, I quickly got to work on the soup, peeling my shrivelled carrots, (caramelized one onion for the sliders), chopped an onion and diced the garlic. Within minutes the soup was simmering away in the pot.
Melissa Clark’s Red Lentil and Lemon Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced (4 is good too)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (you can substitute a 14oz can of diced tomatoes)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of ground chile powder or cayenne, more to taste (of course I added more…)
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced (Four small shrivelled ones work just as well)
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (can do without this and add it the next day when you go to the store)
1.In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes
2.Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
3.Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.
5. Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.
The soup deserves to be in the 10 best recipes category. It was the perfect consistency and crazy tasty. In fact, the next day it was even better. It’s a must make even if you’re not part of the Let’s Make Meal show.
Oh… and it turns out thin sliced pork is even better for Chourizo and Chicken sliders than chicken, and really old onions are super sweet and delicious.