Saturday, February 25, 2017

Shorbat Adas with Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

Quick question: Do you think R.L. Stine stands for Red Lentil Stine?

Because this red lentil soup gave me GOOSEBUMPS.

I first discovered this soup when I ordered it at a Levantine restaurant in Accra, Ghana, thinking it would be a dip type thing. The menu description mirrored that of the hummus and baba ghanoush (something something puree, basically), and since there were three of us sharing a variety of meze, I was like “and this one” (pointing at the menu because I was pretty sure I’d accidentally order rainbow sherbet if I tried to say it out loud).

Usually unmatched in my order-for-the-table prowess, I was slightly chagrined when our charming server produced a steaming bowl of soup (one spoon) rather than the hoped-for shareable spread. Here’s the thing though: the soup was so good, so deeply satisfying, that even with one spoon and in the 90+ degree heat (did I mention the restaurant was outside?) – we SHARED the soup. Shared it. Three ladies, one bowl, one spoon. I mean, granted, we’re close. But I wasn’t actually aware that there was anyone I was “sharing soup”-close with. In fact, my college debate team had this whole running joke around that concept as code for a completely untenable scenario. Color me corrected. The magic of shorbat adas.

And we were rewarded for our trust-fall into the wonderful world of germ swapping by a lil baby lion that was hiding in the bottom of the bowl!

I knew I would need to try to recreate this soup, and a small farewell dinner for my friend Erica as she left town for a few months turned out to be the perfect opportunity. It’s so easy to make this soup for a crowd – really no more difficult than making it for one. And I’m pretty sure everyone went back for seconds, so obvs that means some of that rainbow sherbet magic traveled with me from Africa.

Please, miss, may I have some more?

You could totally do this in the most simple way possible and it would still be delicious: onion, garlic, red lentils, turmeric, cumin, lemon – thrown in a pot with some broth until the lentils are tender and you’re done. The key to the flavor is that simple spice mixture, although I kept adding more and more (and threw in some paprika) because I'm not really into subtlety. Actually, I made it all just a little more unnecessarily complicated because that is the exact kind of dumb I am. Or at least one of the kinds.

I’m the kind of dumb that is happiest when I’m working long hours, playing long hours, and going out of my way to do the unnecessary. Today that included a lunchtime hike to Findlay Market with Tyler because, goshdarnit, I wanted to make tabbouleh along with this could-have-been-all-pantry-ingredients meal. Without fail, extra effort makes food taste better – and, for me, makes it feel worth making. With how easy it is to get high quality and inexpensive prepared food, or semi-prepared with all these meal-in-a-box delivery services, if I’m not pushing myself to do something that takes a little more work (even if I’m the only one who notices) then I don’t know why I’m doing it.

Now if I could only make myself feel that way about going to the gym AMIRITE HIGH FIVE sad trombone

Gosh, we did have fun, though. We had good food (in addition to the soup and tabbouleh, Katie came through with always necessary hummus and veggies, Dan made some Moroccan spiced pigs in a blanket and I picked up some very much recommended za'atar pita chips at Dean's Mediterranean Imports), we had good wine and rather bad wine - but most of all we had ... each other (cue music).

This was a busy day during a busy time, and in the morning I was leaving for New York City. Lots of opportunities to be stressed. But wow, did these beautiful friends buoy my spirits. It was a reminder not to underestimate the power of the positive energy of a big pile of good, fun, clever and caring people. I mean, just look at us putting aside the trappings of modern life and connecting on a human level:


In summation, pluses:
-good for a crowd
-adjustable to your spice preferences
-ridic easy

And minuses:
-you shut your mouth; it’s magic

Shorbat Adas with Roasted Chickpeas

Serves 12

Note: I read a bunch of internet recipes for this (pretty much the entire first page of google results), and then sort of mashed the variations together in my head and this is what I came up with. Seems to me it's most likely impossible to screw up, so make it however you'd like!

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small carrots, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon cumin (or more or less depending on your taste)
1 tablespoon turmeric (ditto)
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika (ditto again)
3 cups split red lentils
12 cups vegetable broth
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 20-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
handful of Italian parsley, chopped

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil in soup pot over medium, and add onion, shallot, garlic and carrots. Cook until soft - about 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and spices and add salt and pepper, then cook another minute.  Pour in both and lentils, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender and beginning to melt together.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss chickpeas with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt, then dump them on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes or until cripsy. Toss with lemon zest, parsley, and a sprinkling of paprika.

Just before serving, add lemon juice to soup. Top with chickpeas.

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