Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

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One of the greatest treasures I possessed as a child was a brightly colored book called Bible Stories for Jewish children. It faithfully recounted every Parsha of the five Books of Moses. And I faithfully read each story from the Torah over and over. The illustrations by Laszlo Matulay were captivating and distilled the essence of each story so beautifully. Adam and Eve and the snake in the Garden. Abraham and the three angels. Rebecca and the camels by the well. Jacob and the ladder. Joseph and his coat and his dreams. Moses and Pharoah and the Plagues. Aaron with the brightly lit Menorah in the Beit Mishkan (Tabernacle).

To this day, I can visualize the picture of Jacob stirring the pot of lentil soup over an open fire. A famished Esau comes in from a day of hunting in the fields, begging Jacob to sell him the soup. Jacob tells him that he will trade it for his birthright and Esau retorts “What is my birthright worth, if I die from hunger?”

Luckily, nowadays we don’t need to sell our birthright for a bowl of lentil soup, because we can easily whip up a big pot in our own kitchens.

Rachel’s Turn: I adapted this Creamy Red Lentil Soup from a Claudia Rodin recipe that I saw a long time ago. Neil and I love lentils, but our kids refused to touch them. So I decided to blend the soup and the kids have no idea that they are in fact eating lentils. It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner with a nice sourdough bread and a big green salad. When I serve it to my guests, I fancy it up with crispy caramelized onions on top.

Sharon’s Turn: I love that lentils are such a great source of protein and fiber and full of iron, folate, phosphorus and potassium. And I feel better knowing that lentils are a healthy, eco-conscious substitute for meat. My recipe for Brown Lentil Soup is hearty and satisfying. And using cardamom in a recipe is always a pleasant reminder of my grandmother.

Lentils pair nicely with a range of flavors and spices and are most often found in soups or stews. They also feature in rice dishes like the Midddle Eastern favorite mejadra, Iraqi kitchri and Indian kitchari. Unlike beans, their legume cousins, lentils don’t require soaking or other special treatment.



Rachel’s Creamy Red Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds of red lentils, picked and rinsed
12 cups of boiling water
6 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place the olive oil in a 6 quart Dutch oven over medium heat.

  2. Add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent.

  3. Add the lentils, tomato paste, water, bay leaf and spices and stir well.

  4. Increase the heat and bring to a boil.

  5. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.

  6. Cook at a low simmer until the lentils are soft, about 30-40 minutes, be sure to stir a few times.

  7. Blend with an immersion blender till puréed.

  8. Can be served with some fresh green baby spinach tossed in and allowed to wilt.

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