Everybody knows what writer’s block is, but have you ever heard of cook’s block? This debilitating condition is more common than most would suspect. Symptoms range from a lack of desire to cook or bake to weariness at the thought of dinner. Appetite can disappear. People suffering from particularly acute cases have been known to turn to takeout. Cook’s block can happen to the best of us from time to time, and it strikes without warning.
I have my periods of inspiration and intense creativity, but this is not one of them. I’ve been overcome by cook’s block *sigh*. I try to focus—what to cook today? But it’s futile, there’s just a blank where the ideas used to be. Thank goodness the pendulum always swings. Eventually.
In the meantime, we still have to eat. Fall says it’s time for soup. And the leftover basmati rice in the fridge tells me curried lentils. I listen.
Curried Lentil Soup
2 tablespoons canola oil
¼ cup minced garlic
¼ cup minced ginger
2 to 3 jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 bay leaves
4 quarts water
1 ¼ pounds red lentils, picked over
Juice of 2 limes
½ cup minced cilantro
Heat a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapenos and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the celery and carrot and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the curry powder, cumin, and bay leaves and sauté 1 to 2 minutes more, or until fragrant. Add the water and lentils, bring to a boil, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the lentils fall apart. Discard the bay leaves, stir in the lime juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into individual bowls, top with plenty of cilantro, and serve immediately.
Serves 8. A bowlful of this nourishing vegetarian soup with its aromatic spices will warm you on the coldest of days. I sometimes serve it over cooked basmati rice.