Being both a cookbook/food addict and a Kindle addict, it’s probably no big surprise that I’d have to have a cookbook on my Kindle.  My first one was the Cook’s Illustrated, special Kindle edition (only for Kindle, I believe) which is a great book to have available.  But you can’t expect a cookbook addict to stop at one can you?  Certainly not!

The second one that I downloaded was Kitchen Express. Having the instant gratification of looking, trying a sample, and viola, there it is,  just naturally leads to an I-must-cook-something-out-of-it-now frenzy in the kitchen.  Now I have to say that I love the way that book is organized (aside from the thrill of being able to search using the Kindle).

The weather probably contributed to my choice of a first recipe to try–rainy, but certainly not cold–but the kind of weather to make you want something like comfort food.  I’ve always liked lentils–the cook quickly, freeze well, and all sorts of things.  Given the rain, I searched for lentils and found a recipe for which I had all the ingredients except one: a lemon!  I looked at the description of the recipe, and decided that I had to have a lemon.  Not wanting to go to the grocery store in the rain, I called my closest neighbor to see if she had a lemon I could borrow.  Luck was with me–she had several.

Now having all the ingredients, I made lentil soup (and returned the lemon in a large bowl of soup). Both of us have subsequently done a lot of improvisation around this basic recipe, so I’d like to share it with you, and hope it will inspire you to do some variations.  Here is the recipe reproduced from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express. *

Lemony Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro

Red lentils cook very quickly, but allow more time if you substitute and other type.

Cook a copped onion in olive oil in a saucepan until soft; add one cup of red lentils and four cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil; continue simmering until the lentils are soft.  Puree a handful of cilantro with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt; set aside. If you like, puree half the lentils until almost smooth; return them to the pan. Add about two tablespoons of lemon juice or more to taste.  Stir in the cilantro puree, adjust the seasonings, and serve with crusty bread or a mound of rice in the center.”

I’ve done lots of variations on this one: used lime instead of lemon, added some rice, pureed it or not; there are so many ways to improvise with a recipe like this.  I’ve had the same basic soup with garbonzo beans.  There’s something about the combination of the citrus and the cilantro that just makes this kind of sparkle.  I like to add a bit of the citrus zest to brighten this even more that just the juice.  The pureed cilantro keeps very well in the fridge if the surface is covered with oil (and it’s a great addition to chili con carne to add some fresh contrast).

Well, it’s a few months later, and now we have cold weather, real serious soup weather!  I just finished making another half recipe of this with the chicken broth from cooking some chicken thighs.  Now that it’s colder I wanted to “hearty” the soup up a bit, so I used some French (green) DePuy lentils (which I prefer to red, even though they take a bit longer to cook) and added the chicken meat from one of the thighs that I cooked in the microwave to get both meat and broth.

The only complication that I’ve found with this recipe for one is that bunches of cilantro from the grocery store are huge.  As much as I like cilantro I can never use it all.  In the summer I plant successive pots of cilantro so that there is always some to pick.  In the winter, it’s a different story: want to make this but don’t have cilantro.  I’ve found a great stand-in for the fresh cilantro in the frozen foods department at the grocery store: Dorot Chopped Cilantro (www.dorotfoods.com).  It’s frozen, fresh cilantro in cubes equivalent to 1 teaspoon each.  Nothing is quite like the fresh, but I’ve been rather pleased with this as a stand-in, so it has become a freezer staple for my kitchen.

I’ve just finished a supper of a first course of steam-sautéed vegetables–a medley of carrots, broccoli, and red bell pepper, followed by a hearty bowl of the lentil soup with the chicken meat added.   Since I made a half recipe, I’ll have enough for another bowl in a day or two.  I’ll add another splash of lemon and a bit of cilantro to perk it up, and perhaps have it with (as the recipe suggested) a mound of rice–another satisfying, healthy, and easy meal.

This recipe lends itself so easily to improvisation.  Try it–you’ll find something to please your palate.

A son goût!

* I’ve been searching on how to cite a Kindle reference properly since I don’t have the hard copy.  According to Amazon discussions, the font size does NOT affect the location: so here that is: 1187-98.  Since I’ve given you the exact recipe title, I’m sure you’ll have no difficulty locating it in the book.


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