OK, so remember last week how I was justifying lobster bisque (or at least lobster bisque in fondue form) in April? Well, get ready again. I’m about to justify another soup today.
In my defense, it snowed here this past weekend, and the temperature right now is 36 degrees. Sure, the highs are in the 70s, but the lows are still, well, LOW! Which means soup can still totally happen. I mean, it happens for me even in the middle of July, so that’s not saying much. But for all you normal people out there, soup can still happen this time of year.
Especially when we’re topping said soup with my newest obsession: pan-fried lentils!
Are you gasping like I was when I first heard this idea? I love magazines and subscribe to far too many. As a result, I often end up reading the April issues in June, but I still love them all the same. I wish I could blame this on motherhood, but this was true long before my darling son came into the world. Reading my magazines has been a serious luxury for some time now!
Somehow, I managed to make my way through the latest Food and Wine issue without needing to stop too many times, and thank goodness for that! Because doing so inspired me to make fried lentils! Spiced and sweet and crunchy and salty! GAH!
I’ll give you a minute to recover.
You guys, fried lentils tastes like…wait for it…POPCORN! OK, maybe not exactly like popcorn, but it was definitely as addicting as popcorn. If you follow me on Snapchat (username: mooberto), then you saw me barely containing myself when I first made the lentils. I could NOT stop eating them. So yummy! They get nutty and crispy in the hot oil (which, by the way, is totally low maintenance because it’s not a deep fry. Just a few tablespoons of oil will do the trick!) and when you toss them in the sugar and spice mixture hot out of the pan, it’s heaven. I like mine with a good dousing of salt, too. Always and forever. Me = the saltiest teeth ever.
And as amazing as the lentils are, I don’t want to take away from the incredible soup I served them with. Roasted red pepper soup has always been a favorite of mine. I have been making this recipe (or at least a version of this recipe) for YEARS now. Given how yummy it is, I can’t believe it’s taken me two and a half years of blogging to share it with you!
It is a cinch to make, especially since it calls for jarred peppers, and it’s relatively healthy. The creamy thickness of the soup comes mostly from the potato. Sure, a drizzle of cream or half-and-half never hurts things, but it’s totally optional here. I promise! This soup is just as good sans dairy. It’s also easily made vegetarian or vegan. Swap the butter for coconut or olive oil, swap the chicken stock for veggie, and drizzle in some coconut milk in place of the half-and-half/cream. Whatever floats your boat. I am confident that any or all of those changes will still result in something delicious.
The only catch for making a pot of this soup? Dan loathes anything that tastes like peppers. When we first met, I was eating bell peppers in almost every meal because I LOVE them. Now? I buy like one pepper a week and maybe get to it. Kinda sad, right? I’m just far less inclined to cook with them now since my hubs (and now my son!) refuses to eat them. So, when I make a pot of this soup, it’s really just for me. My mom also loves it, though, so I often pack up a quart to bring to her house. His loss, right? Just look at that creamy, dreamy beauty. I want to dive right in.
My favorite way to eat this soup is topped with a big ol’ dollop of sour cream of yogurt, some fresh herbs, and maybe a crouton or five. Or, in this case, the fried lentils! They add such a nice crunch to an otherwise one-note-texture dish, and as I said, they have such an addicting flavor.
You need to make this immediately. I insist. Before we get into May, people! Because we all know that’s when the summer mentality really hits us hard.
(I would still make this in May, June, July, etc…but we already know that)
2 cups red lentils, soaked for 1 hour and drained
Canola oil, for frying
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
2 (12-oz) jars roasted red peppers, drained
1 large Russet potato, peeled and diced
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie stock
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup half-and-half or cream (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
The crispy lentils
Sour cream or plain yogurt
Fresh chives or parsley, chopped
Olive oil, for drizzling
Drain the soaked lentils and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat ¼-inch of canola oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the lentils, in batches, to the hot oil and cook, stirring frequently, until they are crispy and yellow, about 2 minutes.
Drain the fried lentils on a plate lined with paper towels. Toss the sugar, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle over the fried lentils while they’re still warm. Serve as a garnish on the soup.
Heat the oil and butter together in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and thyme sprigs along with a pinch of salt, and stir to combine everything. Cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are softened.
Add in the roasted red peppers and diced potato and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the wine and cook until it is mostly reduced, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the stock, water, and sugar and another pinch of salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potato is very soft and the liquid has evaporated slightly.
Using an immersion blender (or a standard blender – in batches!), blend the soup until smooth. Stir in the half-and-half and adjust the seasonings, as needed. Keep warm until you are ready to serve.
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each with the crispy lentils, a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of fresh chives. Serve immediately.
Lentils adapted from here.
Soup adapted from here.