red lentil soup

Soups are perfect for those with allergies because they can easily be made without wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, or other foods that are so difficult for many.  And soups are comfort food when it’s dark outside.  Here’s another soup from me to you this January 2008.  May 2008 bring you and yours health and happiness!

We’ve become addicted to maitake mushrooms, also called ‘hen of the woods’ or ‘dancing mushrooms’.  Why are we addicted?  Not only do they have an amazing taste and firm texture, but maitakes are one of the most revered deep immune tonics in Chinese medicine.  In Japan, doctors use maitakes to lower blood pressure, boost immune systems (again), and, as Adam wrote in our March 2006 newsletter, maitakes regulate blood sugar, protect the liver and taste a little like chicken.

Serves 4

4 tbs olive oil 8 cups hot broth or hot water
1/8 cup garlic cloves, sliced several threads saffron ½ cup red lentils
1 tsp ground coriander 3-4 oz maitake mushrooms
1 tsp curry or fenugreek powder 4 cups baby spinach
1 tsp red pepper flakes 1 can unsweetened coconut milk*
1 tsp dried basil ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dried mint salt and pepper to taste
2 ½ tb chopped fresh cilantro

Gently warm olive oil in a soup pot.  Add garlic and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally until garlic softens, a few minutes.  Add saffron, coriander, curry, red pepper flakes, basil and mint.  Stir a minute, and slowly add hot broth and then red lentils.  Bring soup to a boil, lower heat, cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes.  Then add mushrooms (torn wildly into bite-sized pieces) and spinach.  Simmer an additional 5 minutes.  Add coconut milk (or more broth if you prefer), lemon juice, turn off heat, and let soup stand for five minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with cilantro.

Want to add tofu, tempeh, shrimp or chicken to this soup?  But, of course, dollink!

*Coconut milk isn’t authentic, but I like the way it melds flavors.  If you omit, flavors will simply be a little sharper.  This is not the prettiest soup, and unlike other soups, is best eaten the day it’s made.