Braggy moment: A huge thank you to Felicity Swaffer of ‘Back to the Drawing Board‘ for naming kouzina cousins one of the 10 Best Greek Food Bloggers! We are honored to be in such great company! Be sure to check out Felicity’s blog (www.backtothedrawingboard.me) where she chronicles her adventures adjusting to living a simple life in Greece. [end braggy moment]
Given the frigid temps we’ve been dealing with in the Northeast it’s hard to believe that lent started last week and Easter is around the corner. During lent, Greek Orthodox Christians practice varying degrees of “fasting”. No, not a trendy juice fast. In the Greek church, fasting means abstaining from all animal products: meat, dairy, eggs, and most fish. Some fast for the entire 40 day lenten period, some only on Wednesdays and Fridays, others just during Holy Week. In our house lent meant peanut butter sandwiches in our lunch boxes and plenty of Lentil Soup. Luckily this soup is delicious, especially with a hunk of fresh homemade bread on the side. As an added bonus, using the Greek word for this soup – “fakes” (fah-KESS) – lets you feel like you are getting away with swearing at the dinner table.
Lentil Soup (Fakes) Serves 6-8
Source: Athena Merianos via Effie Eraklis
1 lb. bag dry lentils
9 cups of water
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced (optional)
2-3 garlic cloves, diced
2-3 bay leaves
1 TBLS cumin
1 6 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper (to taste, some people leave it out completely)
Red wine vinegar (for serving)
Pick through the dry lentils to remove any small pebbles or discolored beans. Add the lentils to a large pot with about 9 cups of water (the water should be about four times the height of the lentils)*. Add the onion, carrot (if using), garlic and bay leaves. SLOWLY bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a rapid simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Be sure not to bring to a boil too quickly or simmer at too high a heat because that will cause the lentils to pop open.
Add tomato sauce, cumin, salt & pepper (if using) and cook for 15 minutes more. Add olive oil and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until beans are soft. Adjust seasoning to suit taste. Total cooking time is one hour.
Once the soup is served, each person can (and should!) add a splash or two of red wine vinegar to his/her bowl. The vinegar really brings this soup alive, but too much can be overpowering. As Thea Athenoula said when she was teaching me how to make this ‘you can always put more, but you can’t take it out if you put too much…ok?’.
*Feel free to adjust the water according to your preference. More water will make it soupier, less water will make it thicker. You may want to keep a small pot or kettle of water boiling on the side. That way if the beans have absorbed a lot of water and are still hard, or the soup is looking too thick, you can adjust by adding a bit of hot water.
Serving suggestions: As we mentioned above, this soup is perfect with a great crusty bread for dipping. Try it with some feta sprinkled on top – so good! Also, although it’s intended as a hot soup, cold leftovers are delicious.
Photos: Effie Eraklis