Perhaps I should say, “Cooking Fez?” For those of you who don’t know, a fez is typically a red brimless felt hat with a tassel on top. It seems to have originated in Fez, Morocco. Well, that location makes sense, huh? I would love to go to Morocco someday but I hear it’s kind of dangerous. I’ve been interested in Morocco since I saw Casablanca but more recently, after being exposed to the Serge Lutens perfume line. Serge Lutens makes this scent called Chergui that is named after the dry Moroccan Desert wind. I received a sample of this fragrance several years ago while on ‘unenjoyment.’ It’s a scent of honeyed amber, tobacco, hay, incense, sandalwood. I detect more powdery amber and an iris note in winter; and in summer, the more leathery aspects emerge with sandalwood, tobacco and hay notes becoming more pronounced with a bit of rose. It’s softly spicy, sophisticated, and delicious without being cloying. I’d love to sniff it on a man. The many fragrances in the house of Lutens (Palais Royal Shiseido in France) have been inspired by his travels through the Far and Middle East and he currently resides in Marrakech. Why am I talking about perfume when this post is about food? Well, because the sense of smell is intertwined with the sense of taste, so if your sense of smell is more developed, it’s likely you’re noticing more exciting flavors and nuances in food and wine. Let’s move onto that now. I’ll try to type without sniffing my wrist too much.
Around this time last year, a photographer friend of mine was all into fitness, yoga, healthy cooking, and losing weight like a mad man. At one point, I thought a Man-orexia intervention might be needed. No worries – all is good now. I’m just grateful to have friends who post healthy recipe ideas on Facebook. He posted this one and I was intrigued. Photographer friend is the only person to ever create a guacamole good enough to rival my own. Now I had always enjoyed the Middle Eastern and Indian-inspired food when dining out, but had been reluctant to cook it at the homestead after being exposed to some neighbors who did it daily. Apartment dwellers out there – you know exactly what I am talking about. Forget Christmas, how about The 12 Days of Curry? Below is a delightful, healthy soup that should make your neighbors swallow their resentment and salivate.
Lady Sensory’s Knock Your Fez Off Moroccan Lentil Soup
(This was adapted from recipe mentioned above, which is vegetarian. My recipe is not and it has been doubled so it makes twice as much soup. This freezes very well for your enjoyment at a later date.)
4 small onions, chopped
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a press
2-3 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 cups of homemade chicken stock (because now you know how)
4 cups of chicken broth (you can do 6 cups total of stock if you have it, but I used 4 cups of low-sodium Swanson’s broth)
6 cups of water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bag (2 cups) of red lentils
2 15 oz cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
2 15 oz cans of cannellini beans (the white kidney beans used in greens ‘n beans)
2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 cup chopped carrots (approx 1/2 bag of baby carrots)
1 cup chopped celery (I used a small bag of celery sticks)
2 tsp garam masala (got mine at beloved Williams-Sonoma, but you can hit an Indian market or the international aisle at the store)
3 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
salt & black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
Chop your veggies and rinse your legumes (beans and lentils). Warm your big-ol’ fancy pot (or whatever will hold a large amount of soup) over low-medium heat, and add the two tsbp of olive oil. Sauté the garlic and ginger for about a minute or two, then add the onion. Cook for about five minutes. Onion will start to be transparent/golden. Add about a teaspoon of salt (optional) to help release the water and enhance flavor. Add the celery and carrot and some cracked black pepper (optional) and cook for another five minutes. While that is cooking, combine your dry spices (cardamom, garam masala, cumin, pepper flakes, additional salt & pepper if you wish) in a mortar and grind with a pestle. This will help to break up the red pepper flakes and marry the spices. Set aside. Add 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc because I had one open), cook for another minute or two to evaporate the booze. Add the two cans of diced tomatoes and begin adding the stock and broth. Then add the water. Raise the heat to high, add the lentils and bring to a boil. Skim that white foam off the top & discard (foam will turn kind of a pale orangey-red from the red lentils and tomatoes), add your rinsed canned legumes. Skim any additional foam, then reduce the heat to low, add your spices and bay leaves (if you add it before skimming, you will wind up skimming off all of your spices), cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about an hour or when lentils become tender. Turn off the heat, purée one half of the soup in a food processor or blender and return to the pot. You could also use a fancy immersion blender but I don’t have one of those yet. Judging from the mess I made on the countertop from my vintage food processor leakage, I need a new one of those as well as the fancy immersion blender. Mix the purée with the remaining soup and serve.
Enjoy with a nice crusty roll and a glass of fruit-forward dry white (Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Riesling or even Gewürztraminer) or even a juicy red (like a Red Zinfandel or a red blend). This makes about 10-12 servings, so unless you are entertaining, ladle soup into your chosen containers and save for a later date. It freezes very well and reheats in the microwave without compromising any flavor. Soup will keep for a 2-3 days in the fridge (I’m conservative with the timeframe because I like freshness), but will keep for a month or two in the freezer. I just had the last of a batch of soup that I made a few months ago which is why I needed to make more. It really is flavorful and filling (tons of protein and fiber). So next time you’re craving an excursion to a potentially dangerous place, you now have fragrance and dinner options to temporarily fill the void.