There are some pretty elemental questions that can tell you a lot about who a person is. Coffee or tea? Milk, dark, or white chocolate? Winter or summer? These are useful tools, the type of question you might ask when you meet someone you like and you’re trying to figure out if there’s friendship potential. And I would argue that one of those questions is chunky or pureed soup.
Like any good elemental question meant to determine who you are or aren’t, there’s very few people who only fall into one camp. Additionally, qualifiers are important. You may prefer dark chocolate for eating, but only enjoy milk chocolate brownies, which is a completely different answer than “milk chocolate”. But in asking these questions, you’re actively learning about someone. And sometimes you get to steal good ideas from them.
Aaron is a chunky soup person. I’m a smooth soup person. I tend to puree the soups I pull together from roasted veg, and keep the bean heavy soups that we have in heavy rotation chunky. We both have different favs, but we make it work. It just means we eat a lot of soup.
And then I heard the idea of pureeing lentil soup. Specifically, I read the idea of pureeing lentil soup from the genius of Dorie Greenspan. It seemed too good to be true- combining one of Aaron’s favorite foods of all time (lentil soup) with my favorite form. And so with my apologies to Aaron, I rushed into the kitchen.
It’s a pretty brilliant recipe. After sautéing the vegetables, you throw in lentils, broth, whole spices, and citrus peel. The whole soup gets perfumed, and then pureed. Dorie uses orange or tangerine peel, which I imagine would be fantastic and bring a subtle sweetness to the whole dish. I used lemon instead, because 1) It’s one of five items I always have on hand and 2) I think lemon makes everything it touches better. And then I gilded the lily with the crème fraîche I made last week, which added a beautiful creamy and sour component. If you’re not into gilding the lily you can add a dollop of yogurt. It will still be delicious, I promise.
Aaron’s still into chunky soups. I’m still into smooth. But for one meal we had a beautiful compromise.
Smooth Lemon Lentil Soup
Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
The changes I made to this soup were minimal- I swapped out the garnishes, traded chicken stock for vegetable broth, and substituted orange peel for lemon peel. In order to get a smooth strip of lemon peel without the pith, I make a few swipes with my vegetable peeler.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced, leaves (if any) saved
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup green lentils
3 inch peel of lemon, pith removed
6 black peppercorns
3 coriander seeds
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
Warm the olive oil in a dutch oven or other large pot over low heat. Add in the onions, celery, celery leaves, and carrots, and toss until glistening. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften but do not take on color. This should take about 10 minutes.
Add the broth, lentils, lemon peel, spices, and ginger and bring the pot to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft enough to be smashed. This took me just over an hour, but will depend on how fresh your lentils are. Season with salt and pepper to taste about 45 minutes into the simmering- I add half a teaspoon of salt, but adjust as you see fit.
Once the lentils are soft, puree either in a blender or an immersion blender. At this state it will be a more rustic puree. If you want an absolutely smooth soup, you may want to push the pureed soup through a strainer. Adjust for seasonings.
Serve the soup with a dollop of crème fraîche, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of parsley leaves.