November 2, 2010

soup season!

This week I was introduced to the term "T.A.A." which stands for "Tiny Ass Apartment".  I don't particularly live in a tiny apartment (we have 5 bedrooms and 2 baths), so I think "T.A.K." is much more appropriate for my situation.  Our TINY ASS KITCHEN looks big because there is a table and chairs and room to walk around.  But look closer.  The oven is painfully small; a cookie sheet cannot fit sideways in it, and when placed lengthwise the oven door cannot shut all the way.  There is about 2 square feet of counter space, one 6 inch wide drawer and the dishwasher has to be used for storage.  We make it work, and I think professional organizers would be somewhat impressed at the ways in which we cram 3 people's kitchen belongings into such a tight space.

I tell you about my kitchen mostly for pity.  And also so that one day, when I have a large kitchen with 4 sinks, 2 islands and 3 ovens (ok, that might be a bit much) we can all look back and laugh about my T.A.K.  However, last night I made my first soup of the season and the size of my kitchen did not matter, as I was able to do everything on that 2 foot stretch of counter before throwing it into the big pot.  Which is one of the many reasons I absolutely LOVE soup.  And may I just say, last night's concoction was really. freaking. good. Evan looked at me at one point and said "I CAN'T EAT IT FAST ENOUGH!"

I got the recipe from 101 Cookbooks (a fantastic blog, by the way, especially for those of us on the vegetarian train) but I messed with it a bit. It is not a quick soup, as split peas take a while to soften up, but it was worth the wait- not to mention the strong curry smell wafting through the house was pretty wonderful!

Lentil & Split Pea Coconut Curry Soup
1 cup yellow split peas
1 cup red split lentils (masoor dal)
7 cups water
3 medium carrots, cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons butter or ghee (or, to be a vegan meal, you could use oil)
8 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins (trust me, they are a key ingredient!)
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 teaspoons sea salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste
a ton of cilantro, chopped 

Rinse the peas and lentils until they no longer make murky water. Put them in a large pot with the water, and bring to a boil.  Add 1/4 of the ginger and the carrots, lower to a simmer and cover.  They'll take at least 30 minutes to soften up. 

In a small (dry!) pan, quickly toast the curry powder, but be careful not to burn it.  Just keep it over the heat long enough for it to become very aromatic.  Put the curry in a small bowl and set aside.  In the same pan, over medium heat, melt the butter (or ghee) and add most of the scallions (whatever is left will be for garnish), the rest of the ginger and the raisins.  Sauté for a few minutes, then add the tomato paste.  I ladled in a bit of the water from the simmering lentils and peas to help break up the paste.  Sauté for another minute or two.  
Add the curry to the tomato mixture, mix mix mix, and then (if your peas have softened up) add to the big pot, along with the coconut milk, cayenne pepper and the salt.  Let simmer uncovered for another 15 or 20 minutes.  It thickened up quite a bit during this time- if you like a thinner soup, just add more water.  Top with cilantro.  Unless you are a Cilantrophobe and think it tastes like soap.

For dessert, we had one of my favorite simple treats- plain vanilla ice cream, with a sprinkling of cinnamon, honey and a splash of milk in a mug.  Stir it up, and you have an exotic tasting mini milkshake!

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