Recipe for Armenian red lentil soup
Last week I had my jar of red lentils out to make vospov khyma, an Armenian side dish, and that put me in a red lentil frame of mind. And maybe in an Armenian frame of mind, too. This soup also hails from Armenia, a landlocked country that draws culinary influences from Russia, Turkey, Greece and Eastern Europe. I made the soup with bulgur wheat, but you can substitute rice for the bulgur to make the soup gluten-free, and water for broth to make it vegan. If you don't have Aleppo or urfa biber -- both varieties of Turkish pepper -- you can use red pepper flakes, but I encourage you to try the slightly smoky, slightly sweet Turkish peppers (available online from The Spice House or Penzeys). You'll want to make room for one or both on your spice rack. The consistency of the soup should be creamy as the lentils collapse into the broth.
Armenian red lentil soup
1-1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
2 cups red lentils (or a mix of red and white, or red and brown), rinsed and drained
1 cup rice or bulgur wheat
1 sprig of fresh thyme
A big pinch of Aleppo or urfa biber pepper (or red pepper flakes)
10 cups water or chicken or beef broth, homemade or low-sodium store-bought
2 tsp fresh lemon juice, plus a bit of lemon zest (zest the lemon first, then juice it)
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions for 2-3 minutes, until translucent but not yet brown. Add the lentils, bulgur, thyme, and Aleppo pepper, and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the water or stock. Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the lentils and bulgur are soft. Stir with a wooden spoon to encourage the lentils to "melt" into the liquid. Taste, and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
The soup should be a happy, rustic consistency. If you'd like it smoother, have at it with your immersion blender.
Serve hot, topped with a generous amount of chopped parsley.