Embracing the Season

I know there are people out there lamenting the onset of fall and the noticeable chill in the air, but I'm tickled. I love this time of the year. Now, don't get me wrong. When winter's been over-staying its welcome, I'll be right there with the rest of you trying to show it the door. But, for now, the days are still pretty warm, the evenings are gloriously chilly (yay for perfect sleeping weather), the colors are getting downright breath-taking, and even my table is showing the colors of the season:

Few dishes embrace this time of the year as well as a soup brimming with the fall harvest and blended with creamy red lentils. A soup like this makes me swoon and it's not difficult to make. You can use nearly any combination of fall vegetables. I'm favoring early fall items, but winter squashes or sweet potatoes would also pair nicely. Don't like spicy? Use sweet curry powder instead. You can opt to blend it all (using either a regular or, better yet, immersion blender), blend some of it, or just skip the blending entirely for a chunkier soup. You can use the fresh herbs called for in the recipe, choose others you have on hand, or even opt for your favorite dried combinations. It's really up to you. This soup is about celebrating what nature's given to us, so fussing to find any one particular ingredient isn't all that important.

As far as what to serve with it, I really love a loaf of Italian bread - one that's crunchy in the outside and oh-so-soft on the inside. If you want to make it just a bit more intense, spread room temperature chèvre on it and toss some roasted red peppers over that. Mmmmm! Now pour yourself a glass of chilled dry white wine and enjoy the ever-so-slightly-chilly breeze that's offering just a hint of what's to come. But for now, enjoy what's before you.

Spicy Harvest Lentil Soup

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 tsp. hot curry powder
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 c. coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Crème fraîche and fried onions, for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy stockpot. Add the onion, carrot, and red pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are sweating and giving off some liquid. Add the lentils and seasonings (curry powder and smoked paprika); sauté another 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and chicken broth; place a lid over the pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are soft.

Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup to make a thick, consistent mixture. If you do not have an immersion blender, the soup can also carefully be transferred to a regular blender and processed in small batches (do this in small batches to avoid building up too much steam in the blender). You can also skip this step entirely, although your soup will have a much chunkier texture.

Add the zucchini, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper; place the lid back on the stockpot and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the zucchini is softened. Serve warm garnished with crème fraîche and fried onions, if desired.

  • Yields: 8-10 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes