So, since Evren is turning 21 today, I was inspired to post his favorite soup, especially for him. (Perhaps now he will read my blog!) Here is the recipe.
First, I dice 1 white onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and 1 large, juicy tomato. I also measure out 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of good tomato paste. I heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven and sauté the onion and garlic for about two minutes. Once the onion and garlic mixture is softened, I add in the tomato paste and the diced tomatoes, along with 2 tablespoons of paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground red pepper (Turkish pul biber is the best, if you have it), and I stir everything together over a low heat.
Next I add in 1-1/2 cups red lentils, which I've rinsed and strained, 1/4 cup long grain rice, and 6 cups vegetable broth, water, or a combination of the two. (You can also substitute any other type of clear broth - whatever you generally like to use.) I bring everything to boil and then cover the pot and simmer the soup for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
While the red lentil soup is simmering, I prepare my homemade croutons. Croutons are only as good as the bread they are made from, and for this soup, we like a good sourdough crouton. First I slice and dice the bread into bite size cubes, utilizing as much of the crust as I can. About four to five handfuls of the cubed bread should do it.
Next, I sauté the bread cubes in sizzling hot olive oil. I do this in small batches, turning the bread frequently until all the cubes are golden on all sides. As they finish cooking, I plop the croutons into a small paper bag and shake it to remove the excess oil.
By this time 30 minutes of simmering should be about up, and the lentils should be tender and just about done. At this point I add to the soup 1/4 cup fine grain bulgur (No. 1), pre-rinsed and strained, along with 1 tablespoon of dried mint, and I stir it well and continue to simmer it for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup becomes too thick -- and it always does -- I add more water or broth until the consistency is just right. It should be roughly the consistency of pea soup. If you like a rustic soup, it's ready to serve at this point. If you prefer a creamier soup, blend carefully using an emersion blender, or in small batches in a traditional blender. We like it right in between rustic and creamy, so I run an emersion blender through the soup for only about 10-15 seconds until it's the perfect consistency.
Finally, I season the soup with salt and pepper, and serve it piping hot, topped with the homemade sourdough croutons, along with fresh lemon wedges and a simple green salad. Red lentil soup - the perfect 21st birthday lunch! Happy Birthday, Evrenim benim!