In Vancouver there is a fabulous cafe called Rhizome near to where I used to live. They have good food and a bar and you can book them as a venue for poetry readings and family dance nights. I love this cafe. They serve a lentil soup there, and when you order it, they point to a box on the counter and explain the procedure: this is a donations only soup--pay what you can and/or pay what you think the soup is worth. The idea is that everyone in the community should be able to eat there even if they do not have money. So you can pay nothing, or you can pay thirty bucks. The hope and the vision is that those who have money will take up the slack of those who do not. I don't remember how long it has been going on--somewhat over two years maybe--but they have not lost a penny on that meal yet.
I have had that lentil soup. It is absolutely, hands down, the best lentil soup. I expect lentil soup to be heavy, filling, fit for a blustery day. But theirs is so fresh with mint, and topped so delicately with feta cheese that though the soup is definitely satisfying, it is not in the least heavy or rich. It is a little like the cafe is like: fresh, put-together, and fulfilling.
Tonight I made lentils with mint in the spirit of Rhizome.
Minted Lentil Soup
Refrain from cooking the soup much at all after the fresh herbs are added or the freshness will be all but lost. Serve with feta, please, and a crusty hunk of bread with butter.
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 carrots, diced
1 lb lentils, brown is acceptable, but turtle or beluga are definitely preferred
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
broth or water
1/2 cup mint, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
feta cheese to garnish
Saute onions and carrots in a little olive oil in a big stock pot over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook a couple minutes more. Sort and rinse the lentils. Add lentils and pepper flakes to the pot and cover with two inches of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 35-45 minutes, until lentils are tender. Add parsley, mint, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to the lentils and cook one minute more. Taste. Smile. Serve to a hungry crowd topped with feta cheese. Enjoy!