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The Vegetarian

Taste of Garlic, Lime in Mexican Lentil Soup

March 24, 1988|DIANA SHAW | Shaw is free-lance writer in Los Angeles.

I watched the needle on the radiator gauge of the car creep steadily toward the red zone. It's going to cost a fortune to tow, my friend thought as he drove. My mind was working over the odds of making it to San Francisco in time for dinner. I was in the Bay Area for the day on the pretext of spending time with a friend, but as I contemplated abandoning him on the freeway my true motive became evident: I had come to eat at Greens, San Francisco's celebrated vegetarian restaurant.

We didn't make it, nor did I strand him there on 101. Instead, we rode a tow truck back to Palo Alto, stopping by a supermarket before heading for his place to prepare a dish we might have ordered at Greens.

The recipe, adapted from "Women Chefs" (Aris Books) is by Annie Somerville, the restaurant's executive chef.




1 cup raw lentils, rinsed

1 bay leaf

2 heads garlic

Olive oil

Tomato Stock

1 medium red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced


2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 medium sweet red pepper, diced

1 medium yellow or green pepper, diced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1 to 2 teaspoons chilpotle chilies, pureed or minced

1/4 cup lime juice

Fresh cilantro, minced

Cover lentils with cold water, add bay leaf. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

Slice tops off 2 heads garlic. Place in shallow baking dish, brush with olive oil, cover and bake at 325 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes, being careful to avoid burning. When garlic has cooled, squeeze from heads and puree with few tablespoons Tomato Stock.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in soup pot and add onion, chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. When onions are tender, add carrots, peppers, cumin and oregano.

When vegetables are tender, add lentils with broth, and enough tomato stock to reach desired consistency. Soup should not be too thick. Add roasted garlic and chilipotle puree to taste. Season to taste with lime juice and cilantro. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Tomato Stock

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small head garlic, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 medium potato, chopped


2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped thyme

2 tablespoons chopped oregano

2 bay leaves

8 cups cold water

Combine onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, potato, 1 teaspoon salt, parsley, thyme, oregano, bay leaves and water in large kettle. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Strain stock and set aside.

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