Moroccan Harira Red Lentil Soup

Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish.

Note: From “The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Weekends: New Recipes, Stories & Opinions From Public Radio’s Award-Winning Food Show,” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. “In this recipe some liberties have been taken, but hopefully we have not offended tradition,” they write. “The often-used lamb, chicken, chickpeas and eggs weren’t included, and our accompaniments were modified by what is to be had close to home.” Soup can be prepared and refrigerated a day in advance; do not add final cilantro leaves until soup is reheated.

For soup:

• Good-quality-tasting extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 onion, cut into 1/8-in. dice

• 1 carrot, minced

• 1/3 c. (tightly packed) Italian parsley stems and leaves, chopped

• 1/2 c. (tightly packed) cilantro stems and leaves, chopped

• Salt

• 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 5 large garlic cloves, minced

• 2-in. piece fresh ginger, minced (about 2 tbsp.)

• 1 tsp. turmeric

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1 1/4 c. dry red lentils (or other varieties)

• 2 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika

• 1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes and their liquid, puréed (do not use tomato purée)

• About 8 c. vegetable or chicken broth, enough to make a slightly thick soup

• Freshly grated orange zest, optional

• 2 tbsp. (tightly packed) cilantro leaves, chopped

 

For accompaniments (all optional):

• 2 lemons, each cut into 6 wedges

• 12 or more dried figs, halved

• 12 or more dates

• 6 or more dried apricots, quartered

• Currants or golden raisins

• 12 small phyllo pastries of honey and nuts, such as baklava

• Diced cucumber

• 3 tbsp. cumin

• 3 tbsp. ground hot chile (Aleppo if possible)

• Cooked shrimp or chicken

• Crusty bread

Directions

Film the bottom of a 6-quart pot with olive oil and set it over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, parsley, 1/2 cup cilantro and a little salt and sauté 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in pepper, garlic, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon, and cook for 30 seconds.

Add lentils, paprika, tomatoes and broth. Bring to a gentle bubble, partially cover, and simmer 45 minutes, or until lentils have dissolved and the soup tastes rich and good. Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed. Add a little water if the soup is too thick.

When ready to serve, add orange zest to soup to taste (optional), sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cilantro and ladle soup into bowls.

Serve with small bowls filled with dates, lemons, dried figs, honey pastries such as baklava, spices and other garnishes, along with crusty bread.