the lenten season in spring transports me to a sublime lebanon culinary experience written about in alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking on my visit to a village downhill from Douma and its' Greek Orthodox monastery. it was Lent, and after meeting a Romanian painter painting the monastery walls, i was invited to join a few sisters, a monk, and the painter for lunch. tasty and simply nourishing lentil soup made without olive oil to comply with the strict traditions of Greek Orthodox lenten fasting.
upon my return to portland, i adapted my mother's fabulous lentil soup recipe to replicate the lemony lentil soup with chard tasted in Kfar Hilda, Lebanon.
making this soup takes me to to the memory of my beloved grandmother, Dalal, whom i helped sift meditatively through dry lentils on a tray plucking out undiscovered small rocks or pebbles before washing them.
the onions are chopped fine, the garlic minced, and these with the lentils go into a soup pot with water or vegetable stock. brought to a boil, and simmered for an hour, the seasonings are added and the soup further cooked until the lentils are done.
in my kitchen, a new fatima graces the table where i chop the spinach or chard greens added in the last 5 minutes of cooking the soup, along with some lemon juice.
in seasons and regions where lemons are unavailable, citric acid makes a perfect and healthy substitute, derived from citrus fruits. mama alice had this on hand in the kitchen for whenever lemons on our tree weren't ripe, in season, or available.
the asparagus will be chopped and sauteed or steamed along with spinach and chard greens dressed with our superb garlic, lemon and olive oil, dressing that enlivens any spring, summer, or fall vegetable.
alice's kitchen cookbook has 3 recipes for lentil soups, each of them a favorite. a few years ago while visiting detroit, i tasted lentil soup in one of the prolific and fantastic lebanese restaurants that was yellow. after much searching, i discovered the red lentils from
if you're in northwest portland today between 5 and 8 pm, stop by food front co-op for a taste! signing alice's kitchen, too! will post some photos of the event and finished product. stay tuned!
happy cooking and spring blessings!