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Original Message
"OTCC Red Lentil Lemon Soup and Parmesan Crackers "
Posted by Karchita on 02-25-11 at 07:27 PM
LAST EDITED ON 02-26-11 AT 01:15 AM (EST)

These recipes are both adapted from the cookbooks I received from my OT Secret Santas the last two years. *blows kisses to CTGirl and kidflash* Both have become favorites, and what better place to share them?

I'll try to post pictures soon.

Red Lentil Lemon Soup

This is a lentil soup for people who don't like lentil soup. It uses red lentils, which are quite different from regular old brown lentils. In addition to being red (duh), they are hulled and cracked, cook very quickly, and result in a lighter texture. The soup is a lovely golden orange color. I find it much more appetizing than regular lentil soup, which can have a bad case of uglies, and the lemon and spices lift it out of the ordinary as well.

It's adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, by Melissa Clark, a food writer for the NYT. I knew nothing about her before kidflash gave me her latest cookbook. I am now a fan, bigtime.

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium (14 oz.) can of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt (more to taste)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
10 cups (2 1/2 quarts) chicken broth (ok to use all or part water instead)
1 cup red lentils
1 cup brown rice
1 large carrot, diced
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, mint or parsley

1. In a large pot, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in tomatoes, salt, pepper, chili powder and cayenne and sauté a few minutes more.
3. Add water or broth (10 cups total), lentils, rice, and carrots. Cover and simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
4. Blend with an immersion or regular blender until still somewhat chunky. Don't make it too smooth.
5. Reheat the soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro (or mint or parsley) and correct seasoning. Serve garnished with a drizzle of olive oil, a dusting of chili powder, or dollop of yogurt.

Notes & Variations:
• Double all spices and salt or it may be a bit bland. Do not omit the lemon as it brightens all the other flavors.
• In place of the canned tomatoes, use fresh tomatoes or 2 Tbsps tomato paste.
• Use 2 cups of lentils and skip the rice.
• Add a pinch of lemon zest.
• Do not substitute brown lentils. It would ruin the whole specialness of this soup, imo. Red lentils may be a little hard to find, but a health food or Middle Eastern market should have them. Whole Foods has them in the self-serve bins, or at least mine does.

Parmesan Crackers

These little yummies are good with soup or a glass of wine. The recipe comes from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, by Ina Garten, a gorgeous book with fantastic recipes given to me by CTGirl. The first time I made these and brought them to a party, people laughed at the idea of homemade crackers, like maybe I had a little too much time on my hands. As soon as people tasted them, however, they stopped laughing, and pretty soon they were fighting for the last ones. Now I get a lot of requests to bring them to parties. I think they are like homemade cookies; they just aren't the same as anything that came out of a box.

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Using the paddle attachment and an electric mixer, cream the butter for one minute.
2. With the mixer on low, add the Parmesan, rosemary, salt and pepper and mix well.
3. With the mixer still on low, add the flour and 1 teaspoon of water and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles, about one minute. If the dough is dry, add another 1/2 teaspoon of water.
4. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 days.
5. Preheat oven to 350°. Cut ball of dough in half. Using a rolling pin and pastry cloth, roll out 1/4" thick. The dough can be very crumbly and difficult to work with. Just be patient and keep pressing it back together. Using a knife or pastry cutter, cut into 1 1/2" squares. If you like, top each with a few grains of sea salt. Don't overdo it or they'll be too salty.
6. Place on cookie tins lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Notes & Variations
• Do not use anything but real, fresh, quality Parmesan cheese. Kraft cheese in the green can will not give these crackers the amazing taste they have when you use real cheese. Use fresh herbs if at all possible, too.
• Many herb and cheese combinations are possible. I have always used rosemary, but the original recipe called for thyme and I've seen a similar recipe using aged cheddar cheese.
• The crackers will stay fresh for a few days, if you can keep from eating them.
• I usually serve these plain because they are delicious that way. They are rather delicate and will break easily, so I don't serve them with a spread or dip. Plus, if I went to the trouble to make homemade crackers, dernnit, people don't get to bury them under a spread.


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