Let me start by saying, I am a big fan of lentils. They are packed with incredible flavor and loads of cholesterol-lowering fiber, protein and B vitamins.
So when Emily Rayes asked for the recipe for the lentil soup from Jerusalem Cafe in Matthews, I jumped at the chance to fulfill her request. “It is my go-to, healthy comfort food,” she says. “It not only tastes delicious, but I also feel good afterwards. Coupled with their sage tea and a Jerusalem Salad, I am ready to face any challenge!”
She described the soup as creamy and slightly lemony, with heft and texture but light at the same time. I wanted to try this miracle soup ASAP.
As owner Ehad Abuaker recited the recipe to me, I was in disbelief over its simplicity. I thought there had to be more to it. I asked if he used an immersion blender.
“No,” he said. “The lentils cook down and there is no need to blend.” He was right, the lentils completely break down to a smooth, creamy consistency all on their own. I also thought there had to be additional ingredients. Ehad responded that a lot of people make their lentil soup with carrots, but he keeps it simple and lets the legumes shine through.
This soup truly surpassed my expectations. In a little over an hour of basic cooking, you are left with exceptional depth of flavor and complexity. Conveniently, the recipe can easily be made ahead of time. It thickens quickly as it cools, but just add more water while reheating and it will thin out to its original consistency.
One note: Tangy, lemony sumac is abundant in the Middle East, but it’s a little more difficult to find here. I bought mine at Savory Spice Shop, but you can skip it and the soup still tastes delicious.
Are you looking for a recipe from a Charlotte-area restaurant? Send your request to Jennifer Lover, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram (@jenniferlover). Please include your name, why you like the recipe, the area where you live and the restaurant’s location. Lover is a creative director, stylist and cook who lives in Charlotte.
3116 Weddington Road, Suite 600, Matthews; 704-321-1112.
Jerusalem Cafe’s Lentil Soup
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon yellow curry powder
2 cups red lentils, washed and rinsed thoroughly
1 tablespoon chicken base or 6 chicken bouillon cubes (adjust to taste; you could also use vegetable stock)
8 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 jalapeño pepper
3 garlic cloves
Pinch of salt
Ground sumac (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and saute onions and curry powder until translucent. Add lentils and stir for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in chicken base and water, bring to a simmer, then cover and cook on medium-low for 60-75 minutes. The lentils will become soft and break down into a smooth, creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Blend lemon juice, jalapeño (leave in seeds if you prefer it spicy), garlic cloves and salt in a mini food processor or blender until smooth.
Ladle soup into bowls. Spoon 1 teaspoon of lemon juice mixture over soup. Top with chopped parsley and a light dusting of sumac, if using.
Yield: 6 servings.