Fall Flavored Red Lentil Eggplant Soup

Steaming soup, it must be cool outside.

Once upon a time as a waitress at a Lebanese restaurant The Grape Leaf Diner I became quite fond of a hearty red lentil soup. I asked Ata, the cook for instructions. Looking at me like I was slow he informed me to take lentils, water, and onions. Put them in a pot and boil until it was done. Simple. I have since made this recipe hundred upon hundred of times, tweaking and adding to highlight flavors. Its always a cold season favorite and this week it was the platform for finishing up my CSA eggplant, onions, and most potent rosemary.

Fall Flavored Red Lentil Eggplant Soup

10 cups water
2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked for stones
1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/4 tsp (divided) fresh rosemary, finely minced
8 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
2-3 tblsp olive oil
1 med-large onion, coarsely chopped
1 eggplant, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 10 cups of water in a large stockpot with lentils, rice, 1/4 tsp salt, peppers, 1/2 tsp rosemary, garlic, 1 tblsp olive oil, and a fourth or less of the chopped onion. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Stir occasionally and allow to simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours or longer.

Meanwhile saute onions and 1 tblsp of olive oil, seasoning with a little salt and pepper, in a medium large skillet until transparent. Add eggplant and 1/4 tsp rosemary. Continue to cook until eggplant is browned on all sides. 10-15 minutes.

You can tell when the soup is nearly ready after about 1 1/2 hours. Lentils begin to clump on the bottom of the pot, and offer slight resistance when broken up. This is the time add the eggplant and onion mixture. Cook uncovered for another 30 or so minutes. Add the last 1/2 tsp of rosemary, turmeric, white wine, and 1 tblsp of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve piping hot on a chilly night, getting home late from work. The Grape Leaf Diner used to serve it with a lemon wedges and pita chips.

I've tweaked this recipe sooooo far from its original form here is my ingredient logic list:

Turmeric: Awesome color! I had a version with cardamom and turmeric at an Indian restaurant and have added it ever since.
Rice: Thickener, and adds that "sticks to the rib" element.
White Wine (vs lemon juice): The flavor of lemon juice break down after a day or two. Wine lingers a bit longer, and tastes nice as the week goes on. I use dry vermouth, a Julia Childs trick.
Red Pepper Flakes: I like spice!
Seasoning Start and End and As you Go: Cooking for 2 hours will break down the boldest flavors, leaving traces of their former selves. Adding half the flavors at the end of cooking brings back the flavors for a pop-pow-wham finish. This is what known as layering flavors.

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