Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

Not just for foodies anymore!
Today I prepared a recipe from America's Test Kitchen's Vegan for Everybody, "Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices." This is the first blog post that satisfies my contractual obligation under the "custom themes" clause of the VeganMoFo 2017 end user license agreement. I am not a lawyer.

Lightning FAQ!
Q. Am I being sued?
A. No.

I was so excited when I learned that America's Test Kitchen was publishing a vegan cookbook this year. This publisher strives to methodically determine the best way to cook something. They will repeat a recipe a dozen times, tweaking minor aspects with each iteration until they are satisfied. They will then meticulously describe the steps necessary for their readers to create the same perfect dish. Here is an illustration of their process.

My large sauce pan is a pot.
Foodies love America's Test Kitchen's recipes. Nothing beats knowing that you have prepared a dish in the best way possible, and sharing this accomplishment with your fellow foodies. If anyone protests or nitpicks your process, you raise your bourbon and wink, "that's how America's Test Kitchen does it." Point goes to the refined gentleman with the drinking problem.

I'm not a foodie because I'm vegan. One can't really prepare or ingest great food unless an animal suffered somewhere along the way. The best foodie experiences involve the least likely parts of the most obscure animals. Like an infant jungle bird served with sauteed bits of its nest. Or squirming cuttlefish. Or exploded goose liver. Offal.

My point is that I always envied the America's Test Kitchen books in foodies' libraries because I knew that they contained the truth about food preparation. It just wasn't the kind of food that I would prepare. Until now!

This quick and easy recipe is solid. While I love following rules, I tweaked a few things and it still turned out great. This is a strong contender for my top 10 recipe list.

Adjustments, hacks, and errors

  • The recipe calls for a large sauce pan. Instinct recommended an 8 quart pot which turned out much better. There are 6 cups of liquid and 1 1/2 cups of dry lentils going in there FFS.
  • The only broth I had is Better Than Bouillon's standard concentrate. It's darker than the chicken-style broth the recipe calls for. I think it turned out great anyway.
  • I added all 4 tablespoons of olive oil at the beginning. I was only supposed to add 2, and reserve the other two for the spiced oil drizzle. So this recipe ended up with 5 or 6 tablespoons of delicious olive oil instead.
  • I didn't rinse the lentils. They came in a hermetically sealed space bag looking perfect, so it didn't even occur to me. This resulted in some initial froth while simmering, but everything worked out ok.
  • I didn't have any dried mint. I actually looked for it at Safeway, slightly skeptical that such a thing could be purchased. It couldn't. Instead, I got fresh mint and put it in a foil-lined lasagna pan and baked it for 10 minutes at 250 degrees F. Turned out great.
  • Only needed a touch more lemon and salt at the end. 
This is a delicious soup. The lentils and onions had a nice bite. The spiced oil drizzle added some dark heat. Will do again.

Thank you, America's Test Kitchen.


  1. Congratulations on avoiding a VeganMoFo lawsuit! Now that summer is over it's definitely soup season for me, and this sounds like a really good one. I was surprised that a soup could crack into a top 10 recipe list, but actually I'd probably have the glam chowder from Isa Does It in mine.

  2. Thanks! But the month has just begun. There are plenty more opportunities to violate my agreement. A strong criterion for making my top 10 list is ease of preparation relative to results. This recipe has a great ratio. Plus, there are only like 4 things on the list so far. I will have to check out Glam Chowder.