03 August 2009

Cumin Scented Trout with Lentil Tomato Stew

We had a very strange July in central Ohio. We had several days of cool, rainy weather and none of the dry heat we typically associate with July around these parts. We have had lots of beautiful days in the low 80's, so I am trying hard not to complain... but it just hasn't felt like a normal summer this year. I suppose the only benefit to this bizarre weather pattern is that I am cooking a little more than I usually do. Meals like the Kielbasa and Sauerkraut I just posted would not normally grace my plate in July. However, when the sun doesn't come out and the mercury barely reaches 70, I look forward to those warming, comforting meals. The dish I have for you today is similarly warm and comforting, but it is much lighter. The bonus for me? I made it entirely with pantry ingredients! (Although I need to restock my pantry with some ingredients I used up now.)

I had a package of cooked Beluga Lentils from Trader Joe's in my cupboard that I wanted to use. I am an inexperienced lentil eater and cooker. I have a new-found love of vegetarian Indian food, which is opening my eyes to the possibility of lentils. I think the only experience this Midwestern girl had with lentils as a child was something that more resembled split pea soup with ham hocks. It is not my cup of tea. I just assumed I didn't like split peas or lentils or any other funky legume that resembled split peas. Now that I have discovered there are a zillion varieties of these funky legumes and a zillion methods to cook and use them, I am much more open-minded about them. However, before I went on a lentil-buying-spree, I needed to use the pre-cooked variety I bought on a whim that I previously mentioned. I decided to look for a lentil soup recipe after watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa that included lentils.

The computer: one of my most important kitchen tools
(oh yeah! and the mortar and pestle!)

I came up with a couple soup options that intrigued me. First, I happened upon this post at Orangette about lentil soup. Her recipe, adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, really appealed to me because of its heavy handed seasoning with cumin and black pepper. I also found an appealing recipe over at 101 Cookbooks. Her post really made my mouth water when she added the canned tomatoes. I have a weakness for adding tomatoes to soup - I feel like just about any soup in the world can be improved upon with a can of tomatoes. I often eat around the tomato bits in my soup, so I "save the best for last" and have mostly tomatoes waiting for me at the end of the bowl.

In the end, I basically winged it for my version of the lentil soup. I followed the Orangette recipe until I got to celery, which I didn't have. Or the fresh herbs. Whoops. So basically my soup base was olive oil, onions, garlic, carrots, red bell pepper and the delicious sounding spice combination. Then I turned to the 101 Cookbooks recipe and decided to add a large can of fire roasted tomatoes and chopped kale. But then I totally forgot to add the kale - I even had it in the refrigerator!! Oh well, the inspiration was there. I stirred in the pre-cooked beluga lentils and about a cup of homemade chicken stock to loosen the mixture up. I seasoned with salt and pepper and was quite happy with the combination of recipes/ideas.

Next up? The trout. I had some locally raised trout in my freezer that really needed to be cooked. I decided to think outside the box and pan fry the trout with similar spice flavors and eat it with the soup. I was so impressed at how well the trout complemented the lentil soup. The delicate, light flavor of the trout was a lovely counterpoint to the rich, tangy lentil soup. Also, I wasn't sure how cumin would pair with the fish, but it was simply delicious. I wish I had used a little bit more, but I was afraid it would be over-powering. I paper towel dried the trout filets before sprinkling them with salt, pepper and ground cumin. I cooked them in a non-stick skillet over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. To serve I ladled some lentil soup onto my serving dish, added the cooked trout and a drizzle of high quality extra virgin olive oil (from Barcelona, of course!).

1 comment:

Laura said...

Very nice. I am on a fish kick myself at the moment. Weird for me, unlike you.

Yeah this weather has me gnashing my teeth. I am more excited for fall than I normally would be at this point since it is my favorite season and since it feels like I got a tantalizing taste of it but not the real thing. And I want fall food! However I am also grumpy that it was never dry and hot. I guess there is no pleasing me.