Seriously, though, this is a pretty basic soup but with all the right flavors to make it special. I bought both the red lentils and the sumac in the middle eastern section of the store. Sumac is actually pretty subtle, but adds a little tang. I kept adding more to my bowl so I could really taste it.
UPDATE 7/15/12: I added one peeled, diced red potato along with the carrot. The potato made the soup a little thicker, which I liked.
Red Lentil Soup
adapted from In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark
3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
chopped fresh cilantro
In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for another 2 minutes.
Add broth, lentils and carrots. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt if necessary.
Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. The soup should be somewhat chunky.
Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled with cilantro and sumac.