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Red Lentil and Red Curry Soup

My mom says in Ayurvedic medicine there are two types of people: those drawn to cold food, those drawn to hot food. Trained individuals feel your pulse to identify what type you are. I have never done this, but don’t have to: I am most definitely a hot-food person. Hellooo chili and spice and steamy food. It was no surprise that in the middle of the H-O-T Texas summer I found myself craving a bowl of steamy, hearty lentils.

One year ago I started experimenting with Asian flavors and ingredients. I have been pleasantly surprised at how forgiving Thai Cusine is for newbies like me. The flavor profiles mimic Mexican concoctions, with similar uses for herbs and fresh chilies. I am particularly fond of curries for soups, with coconut milk as a base.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients for this one-pot soup. You can throw in practically any veggie leftover to make it heartier, and you can swap ingredients for what's in your pantry and fridge. Using red lentils is intetional: beyond the color, they are great thickeners as they become mushy and fall apart when cooked. That said, you can sub any other type of lentil type you have available, adjusting the cooking time.

Finally, this soup is spicy. Dial back on the serrano and the red pepper flakes if your tolerance or others who will be eating this is low - you can always sprinkle additional red pepper flakes directly onto your bowl. The fresh lime juice at the end is golden - don’t skip it!

Ingredients: 2 cups red lentils

3 tablespoons red Thai curry paste

1 14 oz can coconut milk

1 teaspoon coconut oil 1 medium shallot, minced 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves, minced 4 celery stalks, finely chopped 1 chile serrano, minced 2 roma tomatoes, chopped 1 teaspoon turmeric 1 tablespoon vegetable consomme (see note) 8 cups water

2-3 broccoli stems and florets steamed and roughly chopped, fibrous end of stem peeled (or can added raw in the last 10 minutes of cooking) 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes salt

fresh lime juice for serving (1/4 or 1/2 of a lime per person) cilantro for garnish

Optional Baked Tofu (see Note)

Heat coconut oil in a deep pot over medium heat, add garlic, shallots and onion and sauté, taking care not to burn, until translucent. Add celery and continue cooking until celery becomes softened. Add minced serrano, stir for a minute until fragrant. Stir in chopped tomatoes and cook for another minute.

Add curry paste and turmeric, and cook for another minute. Add coconut milk, vegetable consomme, lentils, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover pan and cook until lentils are mushy and falling apart, about 30-40 minutes.

If using raw broccoli, add chopped florets and simmer for last 10 minutes, otherwise stir in steamed broccoli when done, the red pepper flakes, tofu cubes, and season with salt. Serve in bowls with a quarter or half lime on the side, garnish with cilantro leaves.

Serves 6

Seasoning Note: I favor kosher vegetables consommes whose list of ingredients you can easily identify as real food and veggies. Mexicans and Latins, please do not use knorr suiza, that stuff is loaded with MSG and is just terrible.

Baked Tofu: drain firm tofu and place between a bunch of paper towels to squeeze excess moistures. Cut into squares and stir it in as is, or bake in slabs for added chew (sprinkle with tamari or soy sauce, bake for about 20 minutes at 300F, flipping over halfway)

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