I’ve made my own version of red lentil soup many times, but in this instance, I had on hand some cauliflower florets and garbanzo beans I had roasted in olive oil and curry powder with cumin and coriander seeds. I figured since the spice stars of this soup are cumin and turmeric (ok, there's also Ginger Spice, and maybe Posh), the pre-seasoned cauliflower would blend nicely. Plus, I'd have a vacancy in my fridge I could sublet.
What I gleaned from this leftover derring-do is that red lentils don’t mind sharing the spotlight. I would venture to say you could put any vegetable in this soup, like squash, eggplant, mushrooms or peppers (in Turkey they use rice or bulgar), and it would be yum with a capital Y. You can omit the cauliflower altogether—and to be honest, I would probably delete the garbanzos—but if you have something on hand you want to use up and you think it would co-exist harmoniously, have at it. The red lentils won’t mind. They’re really magnanimous that way.
1½ cups red lentils
6-8 cups water (start with less and add more if needed)
1 small-medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 large carrot, diced
2 cups cooked cauliflower (optional) in small florets
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds (optional), crushed with mortar and pestle
1½ tsp cumin powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 TBSP olive oil
Salt to taste (start with ½ tsp)
Black pepper to taste
In a Dutch oven, sauté the onions in olive oil until golden. Add the ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander seeds and sauté for two more minutes. Add the carrots, then the lentils and coat with the oil. Add the water and spices and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. Add cooked cauliflower or other vegetables about 10 minutes before it's done. Cook soup longer if you think it needs it, and correct seasonings as you go. Either purée in a food processor or serve as is (pictured here was not puréed).
Makes 4-5 servings