Cook in the Moment: Egyptian Red Lentil Soup

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup (c)2012

Do you remember Egypt, or has it become muddled in your mind- stuffed towards the back of your brain with all those other Arab countries in rebellion? Life is busy, and time goes so fast, at least it does for us here in the United States. I would bet Egyptians feel differently, that to them time passes slowly, and change takes place over generations, not days or weeks. It’s been a year since Egyptians flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square protesting the autocratic rule of president Hosni Mubarak (January 25, 2011). On February 11, 2011, Mubarak resigned, and the Egyptian military took control of the country. Did you know even after parliamentary elections Egypt is still under martial law? Watching Fredricka Whitfield interview blogger and Egyptian activist Gigi Ibrahim on CNN, I heard Gigi say, “After a year nothing has changed, we’ve been facing the same regime, if not worse.” A year later, Egyptians are still protesting, and the violence has escalated again. Just three weeks ago more than 70 people were killed in an outbreak of violence at a soccer match in Port Said. When asked, “Was the expectation that military rule would be gone by now?”, Gigi responded, “A year ago I knew it would not be over in 18 days, no revolution is started in 18 days or even 18 months or 6 years.” Here in the United States, we like situations to be tidy, we want to put Egypt in a box, because it’s difficult to understand the complicated issues of old nations. Egypt has risen and fallen many times over thousands of years. Military leaders have conquered and then been dominated by other nations. It’s messy.


10 Ways Tuesday: Lentils

Red Lentils (c)2012

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with lentils during winter:

1.  Lentil Salad

The Lentil and Walnut Salad from Nigella Express is my absolute favorite lentil salad recipe. Cooked French Puy (green) lentils are dressed in a walnut oil and sherry vinaigrette and served with chopped walnuts and chives. I like to add goat cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and bacon for a balance of tangy, earthy, meaty, and herby flavor. Another unique lentil salad recipe can be found in the lovely cookbook, Homemade, where cook and illustrator Yvette Van Boven combines cooked green lentils with crunchy red apple, cilantro, sliced celery, golden raisins, and endive. A simple garlic-red wine vinaigrette brightens this winter dish.

2.  Chili Lentils for Tacos

Pam Anderson’s new collection of recipes, Cook Without a Book, is full of vegetarian inspiration. I think her method of using stewed brown lentils with tomato, garlic, and onion for taco filling is very clever. It’s a hearty mixture spiced with chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Serve the chili lentils buffet style with tortillas, taco shells, and her bright and refreshing Cabbage Slaw. I like a vegetarian recipe that doesn’t force things, this is a smart and flavorful use of healthy ingredients for a satisfying meatless Monday supper.


Ingredient of the Week: Lentils

Lentils (c)2012

Lentils are a true winter pantry staple. If you’ve got a jar of these dried legumes in the cupboard, you’ve got the beginnings of a hearty, comforting meal. Known as pulses, the dried seed of a plant from the lentil species combines well with other pantry ingredients, which is great for this season when fresh produce is so lacking. Green French lentils (also known as Puy lentils) pair beautifully with earthy dried mushrooms, toasted walnuts, dried herbs, fried eggs, and have a special fondness for bacon. Egyptian red lentils simmer happily in soups with dried chile, canned tomato, and Middle Eastern spices. Cooking with lentils is about using the right variety for the right recipe. Green lentils have a seed coat, which helps maintain their perfect lens shape and slightly firm texture during cooking, making them better for lentil salad or fritters. Red lentils have no seed coat, and thus fall apart even when gently simmered. They are best for pureed soups where this texture won’t matter.