I’m once again hooked on Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table. Thanks to a monthly cooking challenge that delves into one cookbook a month, I cracked open Dorie’s tome and started paying more attention to her approach. I do mean “tome,” since you could get your upper body in shape between this book and the similarly sized Baking from my Home to Yours.
I decided to make her “orange-scented lentil soup” (pages 90-91) as this week’s soup, and it’s a winner. I’ve always liked Dorie’s cooking but now that I’ve looked closer at this volume, I realize that she’s continually making a twist on something traditional, creating fresh combinations. In this soup, for example, she starts with a traditional French lentil soup, in which French puy lentils (I used American organic indigo lentils, which are similar) are stewed with onion, celery and carrots in chicken stock or vegetable broth (or even water, as I sometimes do). Then she adds orange peel, coriander seeds and a clove, and grated fresh ginger. The result is a delicious tonic, spunky and spicy from the ginger and aromatic from the orange. She suggests topping the soup with yogurt or lardons (thick bacon). I chose light sour cream since I had it on hand, grated more orange rind on top, and snipped thyme from my garden.
The proportions are pretty simple. She uses 1 cup of lentils to 6 cups of liquid (I used 4 and reserved the rest to thin the soup to taste, which it hardly needed). An onion, a carrot and two stalks of celery with leaves, all chopped, are stewed in vegetable oil and added to the pot, along with a sizeable strip of orange peel (1×2 inches), 1-inch piece of ginger grated, 6 peppercorns, 1 clove and 4 coriander seeds. After simmering, covered, for 45 minutes, you add a teaspoon of salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Continue to cook until the mixture is very soft (altogether an hour or a little more) and puree it the soup in a food processor until smooth. This makes about 6 servings. I’m not going to say it serves 6 people though, since everyone wanted more than one bowl. It was that good.