This is the first time I’ve posted a recipe here. Chile has re-invigorated my inner domestic goddess, a side of me that hibernated during my years in the land of hotpot and dumplings.
La Caro, my roommate here in Santiago in 2005, remembers that I would always make lentil soup. She came over a few weeks ago to watch a Copa America match, and she was not surprised to hear that I’d bought a big bag of lentils earlier that day!
Most of the lentils here in Chile are of the round brown variety. They are tasty, and I have prepared them several ways: once with potato / avocado / lemon, another time with zucchini / tomato and always with generous quantities of onions, garlic, and olive oil.
But the other day, I stumbled into an organic food store, and was delighted to see small red lentils, quinoa, and fresh basil. Armed with these tools, I made my tastiest soup yet. Here’s the recipe, inspired by this New York Times piece, which I remember clipping in January 2008, as I suffered in California suburbia from an acute case of reverse culture shock. Comfort food! Warms the core! Amounts are all approximate.
Red Lentil, Quinoa and Squash Soup
~ 1/2 cup red lentils
~ 1/2 cup quinoa
2 cans or one big jar crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 big slice of squash
5 cloves garlic
2 red bell peppers
aliño completo (Chilean seasoning. You could use Italian Seasoning or All-Purpose Seasoning)
A few sprigs of fresh basil (you could also use cilantro or parsley or spinach, if you prefer)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese
Chop up the onions, garlic, and red bell peppers and saute in olive oil until the onions start to brown. Add the lentils, quinoa, tomatoes, tomato paste, squash, and aliño completo. Add about four cups of water to the pot. Cover it and let it boil.
Cook for about an hour, until the quinoa, lentils, and squash are all soft. Chop the basil and lemon, and add to the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with Tabasco sauce and grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy this delicious, nutritious and economical meal!!
P.S. After my roommates laughed at me for taking photos of bowls of soup with my iPod Touch, I stumbled across this piece by social media monitoring strategist Amber Naslund: In Defense of Donut Pictures (Or Why The Mundane Matters). Amber says that familiar everyday topics, like donuts, connect us with each other:
It’s a way of looking at that person waaaaay over there, on the other side of the screen, and seeing ourself just the tiniest bit in the reflection. It’s a moment of not dwelling on the complex, heady things that we all have to deal with in our lives, and instead sharing something easy, lighthearted, or comfortably familiar. It’s finding someplace where we know for sure, even for a moment, that we relate and belong.
The compelling, the arresting, the artful wouldn’t nearly be so if it weren’t for the contrast with donut pictures of the world. [more]
On that note, here is an arresting photo of the Andes, taken out my apartment window. Oh Chile, country of contrasts.