Monday, August 29, 2011

Hot Soup in the Summer

Mediterranean Lentil and Chickpea Soup

 Really?  "Hot" soup in the summer?  

Some may interpret that phrase as either a sadistic joke, a terribly misguided choice, or a little of both.  And if you happen to live anywhere near me in the broiler sometimes known as Texas, I wouldn't fault you for thinking it downright crazy.  But believe it or not, keeping your diet well supplied with steaming soup, warm tea, and fiery salsas in the summer is not such a bad thing.  And as ironic as it may sound, it may actually help your body to remain cooler.

In a nutshell: 

Q: Why do we sweat?
A: To move excess heat away and assist the body in remaining at normal body temperature (98.6 F).

Q: Does eating food make the body warmer or colder?
A:  It makes it warmer, especially when it must expend more energy to assimilate foods and beverages that are cold in order for the body to digest them.

Q:  So if digestion is made more energy-efficient, thereby promoting faster metabolism, will that create more sweat or less sweat?
A:  Less sweat, which is the direct result of less heat building up within the body.

I'm a nerd, I know.

With that mind, I recall many a day in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when I would go to one of my favorite restaurants, Jerusalem Garden.  It was a little unassuming hole in the wall and everyone who worked there had brightly hued hair and were copiously tattooed and pierced.  But true to the line of people that would stretch out the door day to day, the food was amazing.

During the summer session I had much more free time, so it would not be strange to find me there every day.  Now even though Michigan is in the Midwest, it does not mean that its summers were not hot, humid and sticky.  And combine that with the tiny quarters of the restaurant, the huge fryers in their exposed kitchen, and the doors that were constantly open due to foot-traffic, and you have an equilibrium of air condition between outside and inside - not fun.  But believe me when I say that it was totally worth it.  Without fail, I would always start with a cup of their lentil soup.  It was a welcome combination of flavors: tart lemon, the slight "sweetness" of brown lentils, the warmth of cumin and coriander.  Served piping hot, while waiting for it to cool I remember taking in the smell of it as it wafted up from the small, white ceramic cup.  Torturous and heavenly all at the same time.

So now with temperatures continuing to soar and the record of triple digit days continuing to be broken day by day, I felt inspired to make a soup that would not only live up to my nostalgia but also fit within the constraints of my diet.  And if it helps me to stay cooler, than that would just be GFDF gravy.

Vegan Mediterranean Lentil 
and Chickpea Soup (GF, DF, V, rSF, SF)
1/2 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced  
1 tablespoon evoo for sauteing
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon                          
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander                    
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 c  soaked brown lentils                              
1 c  soaked chickpeas
4 c warm vegetable stock                 
2-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice                  
2-3 tablespoons evoo for emulsification
1-2 teaspoons agave                
salt, to taste (optional)

1. Heat the one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and begin to saute the diced onion.
2.  When onion begins to become translucent, add spices.  Saute for 1-2 minutes to cook the spices.  This will enhance and add depth to their flavors.
3.  Add garlic and saute for 1 more minute.
4.  Add warm stock, lentils, and chickpeas.  Bring to a boil and then immediately reduce to a simmer, skimming the surface of the stock to remove any "foam" that may accumulate.  Allow it to cook for 30-90 minutes until beans are cooked through.  I'm on a sprouting kick, so that's what I used for this recipe, but feel free to use canned beans if that's what's most convenient for you.  Note that it will cut down on your cooking time significantly.
5.  When lentils and chickpeas are finished cooking, remove from heat.  Allow mixture to cool slightly.
6.  Cooling the soup makes blending the soup much easier and safer.  You can use a blender or a hand-blender to puree the soup.  I set aside about 1/4 of the whole beans to add back in later.
7.  While blending the soup, add lemon juice and agave and then slowly drizzle in two to three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.  When desired consistency has been reached, add whole beans back in.
8.  It can be served immediately, but like most soups, flavors will be best the following day.  If you choose to season with salt, I would recommend only doing so directly before serving it.
9.  Makes 6-8 servings.

My culinary laboratory

Bringing to a boil

Seasoning with flavor

Simply garnished with
diced tomatoes and cilantro

In the last three recipe posts, I've mentioned Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, and it's no coincidence.  Going to school there really awakened me to the diversity of food in our world and I have many fond memories of that time in my life.  So many things changed in such a short time, and in the grand scheme of things, all for the better.  And while I've gone back several times, to visit my family and walk around campus, it isn't the same - the city and the times that I remember are no longer there.  But they do still exist in my mind.  

And what better way to pay respect to the past than to allow it to inform our present and future?

So with these last few recipes, and nearly all my cooking, I strive to recreate moments of happiness and discovery.  And in doing so, my hope is that that thread of joy will continue not only through my life, but through the lives of others, bringing us together with memories we will adore, cherish, and learn from.

Time moves by so quickly, maybe even quicker than we know.  So with that thought, here's another to tag along with it:

Rather than filling life with moments, try filling each moment with life.  

The world will be better for it.  


  1. Jerusalem Garden Forever =) I'm there. I remember delighting in their fresh and crunchy falafel with a side of hummus. The soup was incredible too. I laugh when I think of how Auntie Edna was scared and intimidated by the workers with their brightly colored hair and myriad of tattoos. Then, she sat down and had falafel for the first time and she fell in love with it. She would ask me several times after that 'What was it called, Jessica? Fala..what? Falfel???' 'Fa-la-fel, Auntie', I would reply each time. Hot soup is good any time of year, just like tea! So nourishing for your body and your mind =) I know you're on a sprouting kick right now; so would you mind doing a mini entry about sprouting? It's pretty straightforward I know, but it's still good knowledge to share =)

  2. _That_ was hilarious! I remember we were sitting at the counter by the register, and her eyes were darting back and forth nervously. She asked Dad if he thought it was "safe" to eat there. LOL.

    I'll start working on a sprouting're not the only one asking for it.

    Maraming salamat, as always, Jess, for your support and diligent commentary.


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