When you have nine-to-five schedules, making a tasty, healthy homemade dinner can feel like the worst chore in the world, especially if it's been a rocky day at the office or a busy night looms ahead. The eating out option is fine occasionally, but your waistline and wallet will complain if you do it too often. You want something speedy yet nourishing.
That's when cookbooks like Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express have come to our rescue. After successfully testing a few recipes while we borrowed it from the library, we knew we had to have our own copy...which would up under the Christmas tree. Organized by season (a structure we've ignored), the cover promises that any of the four hundred plus recipes inside take twenty minutes or less to whip up. Of the dishes we have tried, Bittman's Lemony Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro has made the most return appearances on our table.
Cook a chopped onion in olive oil in a saucepan until soft; add one cup of red lentils and four cups chicken broth and bring to a boil; continue simmering until the lentils are soft. Puree a handful of cilantro with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt; set aside. If you like, puree half the lentils until almost smooth; return them to the pan. Add about two tablespoons of lemon juice or more to taste. Stir in the cilantro puree, adjust the seasonings, and serve with crusty bread or a mound of rice in the center.
The beauty of Bittman's book is that because many of the measurements in the recipes are imprecise, there's plenty of leeway to adjust each ingredient to match your taste and encourage experimentation. As far as this recipe goes, our main adjustments are:
- Drop the extra olive oil added with the cilantro
- Add the cilantro at the end of the cooking process and puree it within the soup with a hand blender instead of doing so on its own - JB