I am not usually a fan of hot soups in the summer.

Crazy about a  cold fruit or cucumber soup but with the sweltering heat of August; hot soup- not so much. Having said that, with the rainy days we’ve had throughout this summer, it gets mighty cool on Crow Mountain after a heavy rain. While sitting at my computer today, looking out over the fog enshrouded valley, I can almost believe it is a fall or winter day. That’s when my new favorite soup starts calling my name! The only two soups I make in the summer that are served hot are Spicy Red Lentil and Potato Leek. (Mainly because I am blessed with leeks galore in the garden.) I’m sure I have given you a recipe for potato leek soup in the past but today I want to introduce you to an easy-yet-delicious-red lentil soup. I have not found red lentils in town but Earth Fare and Whole Foods in Huntsville carries them. “You could possibly use green or brown lentils but I don’t think it would be as good.
This soup also has a garnish that kicks it up several notches as well.

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided in half - 2 Tbsp. reserved for the garnish
2 large leeks, washed, white part only, finely chopped (or 1 medium onion)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of cayenne (optional)
1 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves,  finely minced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
Ingredients for the garnish:
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tsp. fresh mint, or 1&1/2 dried mint, finely minced
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and 1 tsp. salt. Cook onions until softened but not browned. Add next six spices and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste and garlic and cook 1 minute, sitting constantly. Stir in broth, water and lentils and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes. When all vegetables and lentils are tender, whisk with a wire whisk until coarsely pureed. Let cool and test for seasonings, adjusting as needed.
To make the garnish. Melt the remaining 2 Tbsps. butter in a small skillet. Remove from heat and stir in mint, paprika, cilantro  and lemon juice.
To serve soup, reheat to just below boiling then ladle into soup bowls and drizzle with the garnish.
This soup, as most soups, only improves in flavor the next day.

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