Syrian Lentil Soup

SwissChardIn the late 90’s and early 2000’s I began to put together my own recipe book. I would cut out recipes from food magazines, tape them to pieces of paper and put them in three-ring binders. In my zeal, I ended up with about 500 recipes in three folders that still sit on my cookbook shelf. Today, with online access to millions of recipes, such an exercise seems pretty pointless, and often I will pull up one of those recipes on my iPad rather than sift through the pages of my binders. But I still enjoy flipping through them from time to time, if for no other reason than strolling through the memories of the places and times I gathered them. A recipe for comté gougères reminds me of a trip to the Jura region in France when my wife and I were teaching English in Dijon; another recalls our time in Thailand.


One of my favorite recipes in my binders is for a lentil soup. I’m not sure where it came from but I remember making for the first time when we lived in Atlanta in 2002. My wife was working at the Botanical Garden in the day and I was waiting tables at night. Our schedules were such that we rarely saw each other, save for first thing in the morning and late at night. During that time, I would often make her dinner during the day and leave it in the refrigerator. I’ve made it many times since—it’s a great quick meal and works perfectly during the cool rainy months in Seattle—and every time we sit down to enjoy it, I’m reminded of how lucky we are to be able to spend evenings together as a family. Here’s the recipe.

Syrian Lentil Soup

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1  medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Pinch of cinnamon
½ lbs. red lentils
5 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 large bunch Swiss chard (about a pound), cut in ribbons
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook until tender—about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and cinnamon and sauté until fragrant—1 minute. Add the lentils and stir—1 minute. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until the lentils are tender.

2. When the lentils are tender, add the Swiss chard and cook until wilted. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

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