Red Lentil Soup

When I was nineteen, I spent ten days in Egypt with a group of professors and grad students from my university.  I was the farthest from home I'd ever been.  I didn't really know anybody, and that first night in Cairo, I was both jetlagged and apprehensive when our guide slid a bowl of lentil soup to me from across the table.

"Eat this," he said. "It will help."

He was not wrong.  It was one of the simplest, best meals I've ever had.  Since then, this soup has always been one of my favorite comfort foods.  So because it's cold outside today in that always-winter-but-never-Christmas way that only January and February know how to do, I'm sharing a recipe that approximates the bowl of comfort offered to me that night.   

Red Lentil Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
a few dashes crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound red split lentils (soaked)
8 cups chicken stock
lemon wedges
fresh pita, naan, or similar

In a large pot heat the oil. Add the pepper flakes, cumin, and turmeric, and fry until the spices are fragrant.  Stir in onions and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the onions soften, then add the lentils, cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes or until lentils are broken down and soup's texture is nearly smooth. Taste for seasoning, then remove from heat and cool slightly before serving with a squeeze of lemon and fresh bread.