There’s a little restaurant (like 10 tables!) that my husband and I frequent in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago called Taste of Lebanon. They make the most awesome lentil soup served piping hot. I dare say I’m a bit obsessed with it – and that’s something I rarely say about anything! Even if it’s 100 degrees outside, we order their soup because it’s sooooo good. On many occasions I was tempted to ask for their recipe, but didn’t because I doubted they would give away their secret. One day, my husband asked what I was too afraid/embarrassed to ask, and the server said the flavor we tasted was allspice. I never would have guessed!
Allspice tastes kind of like a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, but with a little curry-type heat added in. I had some whole allspice seeds (they look like large brown-colored peppercorns) that I ground up in a coffee grinder. Since I don’t use allspice often, I prefer to keep the seeds whole and grind right before use to keep them a bit fresher. Although now that I know how to make this soup, I’ll be using a LOT of allspice. Note to self – keep coffee grinder blades sharp!
Many Lebanese lentil soup recipes feature cumin and lemon juice as the star ingredients, but this had neither – and it was still to-die-for delicious! So I ran home and whipped up my own batch. I I added diced sweet onion and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Then I garnished it with cilantro, which I think adds a nice touch. This is so easy to make – all you need to do is chop an onion and 20 minutes later, soup’s on!
1 cup red lentils
1 sweet onion (small dice)
4 cups water
1 – 2 tablespoons ground allspice (depending on how strong you like spice – I used a full 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon powdered garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
chopped cilantro for garnish
- Saute the onion, allspice, and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the lentils, salt, pepper and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Lentils should be completely cooked.
- Serve hot garnished with chopped cilantro.