Lebanese Lentil Soup

I was given a copy of My Pantry by Alice Waters for Christmas which has a lovely Lebanese inspired lentil soup recipe.  I immediately decided to try this recipe. After all the culinary excesses of the holidays I feel a week of soup is needed to start the New Year off right.

Although the yogurt is optional, it gives the soup a nice tangy taste which complements it very well.

Lebanese Lentil Soup
Adapted from My Pantry by Alice Waters
4-6 servings

1½ cups lentils
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
1 bunch spinach, rinsed and torn
Lemon juice from ½ lemon
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Plain yogurt (optional)

Rinse the lentils in cold water and discard any floating husks.

Heat the oil in a large heavy soup pan, such as a Dutch oven.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until tender 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, coriander and cayenne.

Add the lentils and stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook until the lentils are soft, about 35 minutes.

Add the spinach and allow to wilt. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Just before serving, add a generous amount of lemon juice and the cilantro.  Garnish each bowl with a dollop of yogurt.