Soup's on: Coconut red lentil soup and pita
When I first tried this soup, I’d been feeling somewhat down thanks to the relentless Chicago winter that I have endured now 10 times. (I'm hoping you get time off of Purgatory for every year spent in Chicago in the winter) The soup was an instant mood lifter. It’s lightly spiced with a subtle coconut flavor that can transport your thoughts from the seemingly unending cold and gray to the possibility of warmth and sunshine.
In these early weeks of Lent, as we start to wonder why we've chosen our fasts and Lentent commitments, let us be reminded of the brighter days to come as we continue to improve ourselves, our relationships with our friends and families, and our relationship with God.
Coconut Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks 
1 cup yellow split peas
1 cup red lentils
7 cups water
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons butter
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 / 80 ml cup tomato paste
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
one small handful cilantro, chopped
Rinse the lentils and split peas well. Place them in an extra-large soup pot, cover with the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the carrot and 1/2 Tablespoon of the ginger. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft (this took longer than 30 minutes for me).
In the meantime, in a small dry skillet or saucepan over low heat, toast the curry powder until it is fragrant. Be careful though, you don’t want to burn the curry powder, just toast it. Set aside. Place the butter in a pan over medium heat, add the green onions and the remaining ginger. Sauté for two minutes stirring constantly, then add the tomato paste and sauté for another minute or two more.
Add the toasted curry powder to the tomato paste mixture, mix well, and set aside. When the lentils are ready, add this mixture along with the coconut milk and salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so. If you like it thicker (I do), allow it to simmer for longer, at least 30 minutes. Season again with salt to taste.
Serve with lime wedges, plain yogurt, the chopped cilantro, and pita bread for dipping.
Wheat Pita Bread
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Makes 8 pita rounds
3 c flour (JOC says bread flour; I used a mix of all-purpose and white whole wheat.)
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 packages or 1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 1/4 c room temperature water
1 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
Whisk together in a large bowel of the ingredients except the butter and water. Add the butter and water and mix either by hand or on low speed in a mixer for about 1 minute. Knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes until it’s smooth, soft, and elastic, adding flour or water as needed. (You can do this by hand or with a dough hook in a stand mixer.)
Transfer to a clean bowl, pour a little olive oil over the top and turn to coat. Cover and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size. It should take 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or longer if you’re room is cooler).
Remove the racks in your oven and set a pizza stone in the bottom. Pre-heat to 450 F for at least 45 minutes. If you don’t have a pizza stone, place a rack in the lowest level and use a baking sheet turned upside down. But only heat that sheet for about 5 minutes. Otherwise, leave the pizza stone in the oven to get hot.
Punch down the dough and roll it into 8 balls. Cover and let them rest for 20 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball into a thin round, about 8 inches across and 1/8-inch thick. Spray or brush with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Then, spray the baking sheet or stone with a mist of water and wait 30 seconds. Then place as many rounds as will fit directly onto the hot surface. Close the oven door and bake until they puff up. This should take about 3 minutes. Wait 30 more seconds and remove the bread and place on a cooling rack.
Continue until all the rounds are cooked.