(lentil soup rests on our well-used map)

Sure Valentine's Day is a silly thing at best -- I like to acknowledge the brilliance, humor and tender heart of my honey as often as possible . . . But the sentimentality, pinks, reds and all things got to my head (all the way in Istanbul -- it's totally commercialized and pushed here too) and reminded me of all the wonderful things about the D.

He's the travel partner of my dreams, the most discerning palate I know and is endlessly curious about things as big as the universe and as tiny as the village of bacteria living on our skin. He's amazing.

So how does this relate to soup? Well . . . to celebrate our life and love, I decided to focus on something so filling, sustaining and simple -- yet hard to make really well -- soup. It's maybe a food-obsessed metaphor, but it seems a recipe for a great stew or soup parallels that of a great partnership -- simple ingredients, attention to details, a little bit of care and voila -- something nourishing, life-affirming and comfortable is born.

Also, let's be real, we find Istanbul completely European in price and we're on a tight tight budget in order to survive our stay here -- another great reason for soup!

Rich or poor, this soup is so ridiculously right on. It's delicious and tangy. I'd say the fancy cocktail dress of the lentil soup spectrum (is this possible?) It's a dish that would be even better the next day and would work with lots of variations -- atop a crusty bread as a sloppy-joe type of thing, mixed in with noodles as a rustic Italian interpretation or just straight-up as a perfect lunch. Add a juicy orange for dessert and you will be one happy lady. I did just this meal (soup + orange) and promptly got in bed for a celebratory nap.

Turkish Lentil Soup*

1 c green lentils
1 onion, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 zucchini, shredded
2 tbsp olive oil
5-6 cups water
1 tbsp salt
4 tbsp vinegar
juice of one lemon
1 tbsp butter

spice mixture:
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp sumac*
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano

garnish topping:
1 bell pepper, medium chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 handful green (or black if you like) olives, coarsely chopped
-- toss in a splash of olive oil and vinegar. salt and pepper to taste.

In a large pot, place onion in olive oil and cook down for about 5 minutes, until the onions start to sweat. Add lentils and water. Add all spices, lemon juice and vinegar. Cook on medium-high heat, with lid on, about 45 minutes. Add the butter, garlic and shredded zucchini, adjust salt/pepper to taste. Cook another 5-10 minutes and serve with a large spoonful of pepper/olive topping and a slice of bread. yum!

* This version is quite similar to the lentil soup served at almost every restaurant here, but I don't have a blender, so cannot get the smooth texture they do -- you could blend or food-process for a more authentic experience. Although I like it chunky too!

** sumac is a lemony spice common in middle-eastern cuisine. I think you could find it at a natural foods store, Whole Foods or, if you can't find it, order it from Dean and Deluca.


  1. loving your soups! this might tempt me away from my beloved mulligatawny soup, at least for a while.