Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bulgur and Red Lentil Soup with Browned Onions

Kolkeh is a hearty, filling Syrian soup with simple ingredients: bulgur, red lentils, garlic, onions and practically nothing else. Conceptually, it's very similar to a soupy mjeddra, with lentils, whole grains and crispy onions combining to be more than the sum of their humble parts. The chewy bulgur and the broken-down lentils have a great textural contrast.

3/4 cup cracked bulgur
3/4 cup red lentils
3 cloves garlic, peeled
water to cover
1 onion, sliced into thin rings
1/4 cup canola oil (or other high-heat oil)
salt to taste
Sour cream or yogurt
Lemon wedges for squeezing

Place the bulgur, lentils and garlic in a medium-sized saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer about 30-35 minutes, until lentils break down and bulgur is tender.

Meanwhile, heat oil over medium-high heat in a cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed frying pan. Add the sliced onions and fry, stirring occasionally, until they are crispy and brown. Remove them promptly with a slotted spatula to prevent burning (but keep the cooking oil).

When the soup is cooked, stir in the onions, a teaspoon or two of the onion-frying oil, and plenty of salt. Serve with sour cream, yogurt or lemon wedges.

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