Guest edited, prepared & photographed by Bonnie Berry
I love soup. It instantly cheers me up. And I feel like it always needs crackers. It must be from days as a child when my grandmother gave me soup and crackers. So I decided I should make them, which seemed like an impossibility. I don't know why, but it always seemed too hard. It is, however, surprisingly easy. And with all of the GMO issues and the hidden chemicals in our food these days, and the fact that I like to cook, making things from scratch seems like the simplest way for me. I have made this soup recipe a dozen times and it never disappoints. I have used different kinds of lentils when I have not had red ones and the taste is the same, although it may not look quite as pretty.
CARROT & RED LENTIL SOUP adapted from La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 red onion sliced 1 leek, white part only, finely chopped 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme 2 garlic cloves minced 1 large tomato (blanched, peeled, seeded and diced) 1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste 2 cups carrots (peeled and sliced, about 4-5 carrots) 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and sorted 4 cups cold water 1 bay leaf Sea salt and pepper 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or more to taste)
Top with: Lime juice Coconut milk or cream Chopped cilantro Crushed red peppercorns
In large heavy pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oil, then add onion, leek, cumin, and thyme, cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring until fragrant and the onions are soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomato and tomato paste, cook for 2-3 minutes until tomato has softened. Add the carrots, lentils, cold water, and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the carrots and lentils are soft. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf and transfer to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Return soup to the pot and stir in coconut milk. Reheat and check seasoning for coconut milk and salt and pepper. Serve topped with a dab of coconut milk, a squirt of lime juice, cilantro and crushed red pepper.
PARMESAN CREAM CRACKERSadapted from Smitten Kitchen
Rolling the dough 1/4-inch thick, I yielded 30 1 1/2-inch square cookies that shrank slightly and puffed to 3/8-inch thick
1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed Coarse salt, pepper, sesame or poppy seeds or whatever you like for sprinkling (optional).
Heat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly dust with flour. Put flour, salt, cheese and butter in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and butter are combined. Add about 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit until a dough forms. If it does not come together, add more liquid a teaspoon at a time, until mixture holds together but is not sticky.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/4-inch thick or even thinner, adding flour as needed. From here, you can either form them into individual crackers (I went for 1 1/2-inch squares cut with a fluted pastry wheel) and bake them an inch apart on your baking sheet (the method I used) or transfer the entire rolled-out sheet to your baking sheet (draping it over the rolling pin will make it easier) and score them lightly with a knife, pizza or pastry wheel to break into crackers after they are baked. For either method, dock all over with a fork and sprinkle with salt or any other toppings you are using.