Lentil Rice Soup with Caramelized Onions

I subscribe to approximately a bazillion news & recipe groups, which take up massive space in my Facebook news feed (did I mention that I also have an Oh! You Cook! Facebook page?  Check it out!).  Anyway, one of the groups is the Huffington Post Taste, a food and recipe aggregate.  HuffPost Taste tries its best to entice me into clicking its links by teasing me with headlines such as "weird candy champions" or "you're overlooking a very important (fill in the blank)".  I usually ignore this blatant attempt to lure me in and skip down to the latest post from lol cats or something else equally a time suck critically important.  

But today's headline tease from HuffPost entitled, "This soup flies under the radar but we really can't figure out why" along with a yummy-looking photo, intrigued me.  So after clicking on the link then having to click past a few others, I was finally rewarded with a recipe for Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions.

The caramelized onion garnish is more charred than caramelized, but in a good way, pairing well with the soup underneath.  The rice mellows the taste of red lentils, which was interesting since red lentils have a more mellow flavor than the more familiar brown lentils.  So if you never cared for the earthy taste of brown lentils, you are in for a pleasant surprise.

Speaking of surprises, the soup also contains baby spinach, enough that it should be in the soup's name.  Although then the title might be too long to fit on a page, so I guess something had to give.  Or maybe some people might be scared off with spinach in the title.  Despite 4 whole cups of  spinach, it is not overpowering, so don't hold back.  Just pour the entire bag in.  Unless you want to save some for a salad later.

Lentils are inherently gluten-free.  But since many brands of lentils are processed in facilities that also process gluten items, so if gluten-free is important to you, check the label.

Since the soup was alongside a chicken dinner, I used chicken broth and margarine.  For a parve (vegan) version, use veggie broth.  For a dairy version, use both veggie broth and butter.

Lentil Rice Soup with Caramelized Onions
Adapted from Arctic Garden Studio
Yield: 6 servings

For the Onions:
3 medium onions, very thinly sliced
2 Tbl. unsalted margarine
2 Tbl. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

For the soup:
2 Tbl. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tsp. chopped)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. ground cumin
pinch ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
1 1/2 cups red lentils
1 tsp. kosher salt (or more, if needed)
4 slightly packed cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 lightly packed cup cilantro, both leaves and stems, chopped (for garnish)

For the caramelized onions:
Add oil and margarine to a medium or large skillet over medium heat. When margarine has melted, add the onions. Saute until onions soften, about 5 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Add salt and increase heat to high. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until onions are crispy and a bit charred, another 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

For the soup:
Heat  oil in a 6-quart or larger pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened.

Add ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg and bay leaf. Stir constantly over heat for one minute or until spices become fragrant.

Add chicken broth, water and rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Stir in lentils; let simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Stir in spinach and let soup stand, covered for a few minutes, to let spinach wilt.

This serving was lunch the next day.

Ladle soup into bowls.  Garnish with caramelized onions and cilantro (if desired) before serving.


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