Saturday, December 24, 2011

Some people are resistant to change. Stubborn is another word.

My father, whom I love dearly, is one of these people.
I am my father’s daughter because I can be quite stubborn too. Ask my husband. But I am always open to new ideas, especially regarding new food.
While I was visiting my family in Nebraska, I wanted to share some of the cuisine that I enjoy in Turkey such as Karnıyarık (split-belly eggplant) or köfte (Turkish grilled lamb meatballs). I ended up not cooking as much as I had intended because I was too busy savoring my mother’s boneless beef ribs, spicy chicken wings, pulled BBQ pork, roast beef and gravy on toast, steak and other familiar delights in my home state. (I did bake a batch of my Grandma’s anise-flavored lebkuchen. If you like drinking Raki, then you will probably enjoy this dessert!)

I did find the time to make a simple batch of one of my favorite Turkish soups – mercimek corbasi (lentil soup). In Istanbul, I often order this hearty, chicken-broth based soup for lunch and a side of tost. It’s the Turkish version of a grilled cheese sandwich with soup – though they often aren’t served together at the same time as I would like.
Now, the last time I made anything with lentils for my dad was nearly 9 or 10 years ago. I remember this quite clearly because after I served him my summer lentil salad with fresh herbs and balsamic vinaigrette, he replied “What is this? Rabbit pellets?”

This comes from a man who is clearly a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy year-round. My mother serves potatoes – mashed, boiled, roasted or baked – with nearly every meal! But I was determined (aka...stubborn) to convince my dad that lentils were healthy and delicious.

At the supermarket, I only could find green lentils next to the bags of dried beans. I was hoping to find red lentils, but that would have been asking a lot. I also bought some containers of organic low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth. (There are two versions of mercimek çorbası in Turkey: red and green. You can find other recipes here at my friend’s blog: A Seasonal Cook in Turkey.)

In my mother’s kitchen, I set about preparing the few ingredients one needs to make mercimek çorbası - onion, garlic (though not traditional), a little vegetable oil, chicken broth, salt, pepper and cumin.

After cooking and blending, I served dad a bowl of my mercimek çorbası in my mother’s good china. Would it pass my father’s critical eye? I wondered.

My father raised his eyebrows up at me, skeptical, as I set the bowl in front of him.

After a few bites, I asked him what he thought of my Turkish soup.

“Well, it’s something after I added the crackers,” he said.

Sigh! Lesson learned – I will never change my father’s opinion about lentils.

Afiyet olsun!
Green lentil soup served with a drizzle of paprika melted butter on top.

Mercimek Çorbası/Lentil Soup
(Adapted from the recipe learned in my Turkish Flavours cooking class in Istanbul.)

1          lb.        dried green lentils (yeşil mercimek), soaked overnight
1          lg.        onion, chopped small
4-5       ea.        Garlic cloves, chopped small
2          T.         sunflower or vegetable oil
2          T.         flour
2          qts.      Chicken stock/broth, hot
1          tsp.      cumin
To taste           salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.      Place lentils in a container covered with water and refrigerate overnight. (This will help speed up the cooking process.)

2.      On the following day, using a large pot, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic for five minutes, just until tender.

3.      Then, add the flour and stir continuously for 2 or 3 minutes. (You are basically making a roux here.)

4.      Next, slowly pour in the hot chicken stock a little at a time and stir continuously, so you don’t create lumps in your soup. You should end up with a smooth, thickened mixture.

5.      Now, add the drained lentils. Discard the water. Season with salt, pepper and cumin. Bring the soup to a simmer, cooking over medium heat for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

6.      Using a hand immersion blender or a regular blend, pulse/blend the soup. It doesn’t need to be completely smooth.

7.      Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of melted paprika or spicy red pepper butter.
I used my mother's avocado-green blender (a wedding present in 1972) to blend my
lentil soup. The blender is older than me and still going strong!

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Kim, Living to Seas the Moment said...

this was a fun read! I loved the Lentil soup I tried while in Turkey, but I also love to try new foods. I see a blender won't be under the tree for your mom. :)
Don't you wish the appliances made today would last as long!
Merry Christmas!

Jennifer said...

Loved this description! I felt like I was back in your parents kitchen :) remember like it was yesterday...

jaz@octoberfarm said...

hahaha....i love this story! when you are a foodie, this is the main frustration in life. thank heavens my family will eat anything. i raised a bunch of foodies! i have thrown parties where i have practically forced people to try different things. hope you are having a wonderful christmas eve!

Southern Cross Blue Cruising said...

I cooked for my 78 year old father throughout the month of September during his visit to us in Turkey. There were always one of two reactions: 'This is really goooooood.' or nothing at all.

I notice that the green lentils are a completely different breed of grain than the red or yellow cousins. I substitute the green lentils for Turkish recipes calling for mince as they are so hearty. The red/yellow variety seem to definitely behave differently. Have you tried the regular mercimek soup recipe but put the whole bit through a sieve instead of a blender? (Sorry for the extra work!)

Joy said...

Merry Christmas to everyone!

My mom's blender is ugly but powerful and awesome! :) I would like to steal it for my own house if I had a permanent location.

I love using lentils and bulgur! I wish everyone could be more open-minded. ;-)

Tams said...

Thanks for the recipe. Don't you know crackers make porridge perfect too ;-)