Last weekend I couldn't decide what I wanted for dinner. I was craving comfort food, but all the old comforts weren't sounding very good. I was poking around the internet, looking at some things I had pinned to Pinterest. Nothing. I hesitated on shrimp and grits. I think it's because I have been watching too much of The Taste. They really seem to like their shrimp and grits. Still, it just wasn't grabbing me. So, I did what I always do when I am stumped. I pulled out a few of my seasonal cookbooks. Somehow winter recipes seemed too heavy, and I wasn't ready for spring. Finally, I got to Melissa Clark's book, "Cook this Now" which is broken down by month. There it was, in the February chapter. I wasn't entirely sold on the lentil soup, but the caramelized onions sounded pretty good. It really wasn't until I sat down for dinner that I realized this was exactly what I needed. The first time around I topped it with cilantro, but he next day for lunch I used mint. Both were equally good. I couldn't believe how well this hit the spot, just the right blend of healthy, yet indulgent for this time of year. I'm thinking of making another pot this weekend. David asked if I could make extra caramelized onions next time. He wants me to put them in a jar in the fridge to use as a condiment. Sounds like a pretty good idea.
What about you? Are you feeling more winter or spring for cooking this time of year? What's on your menu this weekend?
adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark
For the Onions:
3 medium onions, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
pinch of salt
For the soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch ground allspice
1 bay leaf
8 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups red lentils
1/2 cup white basmati rice
4 cups baby spinach leaves
fresh chopped mint or cilantro, for topping
lime wedges, for topping
large flake sea salt, for topping
To make onions:
Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted add the onions. Cook until the onions become soft and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook for another 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and turn the heat to high. Cook stirring infrequently until onions are crispy and a bit charred, another 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
To make soup:
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and bay leaf. Cook and stir for one minute until spices release their fragrance. Add the vegetable stock, 1 cup of water, rice, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Stir in the lentils and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Add spinach and let wilt.
Serve topped with caramelized onions, a squeeze of lime juice, and a sprinkle of mint (or cilantro) and sea salt.