Lentil Soup with a Hint of Fruit

Adapted from "Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven"
Preparation time: 45 minutes (10 minutes of work)
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

The fruit that's doing the hinting here is the humble dried apricot, which might seem bizzarre at first glance, and even at second glance. But something subtle and magical happens when the apricot flavor modestly blends into the soup. Try this easy, intensely-seasoned, oil-free winner, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

2 cups red or brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
8 cups water (maybe more)
2 cups minced onion
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup minced dried apricots
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
3 to 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or, to taste)
Black pepper and cayenne to taste

OPTIONAL GARNISHES:
Extra slivers of dried apricot
A drizzle of yogurt
A sprig or two of cilantro or parsley

  1. Place the lentils and water in a soup pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the onion, cumin, and mustard, and continue to simmer, covered, until the lentils are very soft (about 15 more minutes). Add small amounts of additional water, if it seems too thick.
  2. Add the garlic, apricots, and salt, cover, and let sit for another 15 minutes or so. Stir in the vinegar, black pepper, and cayenne to taste (and correct the salt too, if necessary). At this point the soup will keep for several days.
  3. Heat gently just before serving, and serve hot, topped with a few slivers of dried apricot, a drizzle of yogurt, and a sprig of cilantro or parsley, if desired.
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