Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lentil Soup with Plantains

Now that I've recovered from my Thanksgiving-induced food coma, it's time to get cooking again.  Tonight I tried a new recipe for Lentil Soup with Plantains.  Plantains--the starchier relative of the banana--are delicious when prepared on their own (in fact, I had some fried plantains over the weekend at a Cuban restaurant in Jersey City), so combining them with lentils, another great staple food, seemed like a good idea.

A bowl of thick, hearty soup.
Note: Plantains can be used at any stage of ripeness, but this recipe is best made with plantains whose peels are turning black.

Lentil Soup with Plantains

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced and divided in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 5/8 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1.5 cups lentils
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 ripe plantains, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
First, in a large soup pot, bring half of the garlic and all of the cinnamon, cloves, thyme, and vegetable broth to a boil.  Stir in the lentils and cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté the onion for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the plantains, carrots, and salt.  Continue sautéing for 10 minutes, or until the plantains are golden.  Then stir in the remaining garlic and the allspice; cook for three more minutes. 
Add the plantain mixture to the lentil pot and simmer for 15 minutes.  Finally, stir in half of the cilantro and remove from heat.
Garnish with remaining cilantro and serve hot.  Yields 4-5 servings. 

The flavors in this soup are both deep and complex.  The lentils, carrots, and onions create a nice, savory base; then, the spices come together with the plantains' subtle sweetness to add a little something extra. And finally, to top it all off, the cilantro adds some welcome freshness.  Rachel noted that the soup's texture was a little off (it had absorbed most of the liquid by the time she ate it).
Plantains grow all year long in tropical places, so it should be easy to find them in the produce section of the grocery store (welcome to the 21st century).  If you have trouble finding fresh cilantro, you can leave it out or add another herb. 
 Ease of Preparation:      
I wrote the recipe above to involve a lot of (time-saving) multitasking.  If you'd rather take it slow, you could start cooking the onions and plantains first; then, begin to cook the lentils, and finally, combine them together. 
Non-vegan friendliness:           
This is a really hearty, filling, and interesting dish.  I'd be confident serving it to anyone. 

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