The sense of smell is said to be the sense most closely linked to memory. The fragrance of certain foods, along with the taste, can sometimes catapult me to another time and place. Such is the case with today’s recipe.
I first tasted Red Velvet Soup a few weeks into a 30-day silent Insight Meditation retreat at The Last Resort in Duck Creek, Utah, in the 1990s. Over days and weeks, the relative lack of sensory input on silent retreats can significantly heighten your senses. Sounds seem louder, more resonant and more distinct. The beauty of one’s natural surroundings becomes illuminated. And the tastes, textures and smells of meals eaten mindfully are a major source of pleasure and gratitude.
So when a silky, deep red soup appeared on the table in front of me during that 30-day retreat, it was almost too much to take in. The sight, smell, taste and texture were over-the-top pleasurable. Little did I know that the recipe was in a book that was sitting on a shelf at home, The Natural Foods Cookbook by Mary Estella.
I love making this soup at home, not only because it’s got such a rich, creamy flavor and gorgeous color, but also because it takes me back to The Last Resort. Maybe I’m imagining this, but I seem to eat this soup more mindfully than my usual rather quick and mindless way of eating.
With one exception, I make this recipe just as it is in the cookbook. I do add one more beet than the recipe calls for to ensure the soup ends up with a gorgeous magenta color. The recipe below reflects that alteration. This soup is vegan and gluten-free.
The veggies can be chopped in large (1/2-inch or so) pieces since the soup will be blended. I’ve tried using a hand blender with this soup, but I prefer using a regular counter-top blender (I use a Vitamix), because it creates a silkier texture, and for me that silky texture is part of what makes the soup so delicious.
Red Velvet Soup
1 cup red lentils
1 medium onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 medium-sized beets, diced
3 bay leaves
1 T sesame oil
6 cups water or stock
2-3 T red miso, to taste
Rinse and drain the lentils. Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Sauté the onion and bay leaves in the pot until the onions are translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add the carrots, beets, lentils and stock. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for an hour until the veggies are quite soft. Remove the bay leaves and blend the soup in a blender, adding the miso as you go. I like to garnish the soup with fresh parsley.
Be careful not to boil the miso when you reheat the soup. Unpasteurized miso, the kind you buy in the dairy case and keep cold, has beneficial probiotics that boiling can damage.