Feeling Your Way Along
Photo © iStockphoto.com/Fotografiabasica
My teacher, Suzuki Roshi, once emphasized this point during a week of intensive meditation.
“Zen,” he said, “is to feel your way along in the dark, not knowing what you will meet, not already knowing what to do. Most of us don’t like going so slowly, and we would like to think it is possible to figure everything out ahead of time, but if you go too fast or are not careful enough, you will bump into things. So just feel your way along in the dark, slowly and carefully,” and he gestured with his hand out in front of him, feeling this way and that in the empty air.
“When you do things with this spirit, you don’t know what the results will be, but because you carefully feel your way along, the results will be okay. You can trust what will happen.”
Lentil Soup with Cumin, Coriander, and Lemon
I made this soup at a cooking class once, along with pimento pizza and pear crisp. Several students thought it was the best part of the dinner. Lentils are like that—ordinary yet winsome. See what you think. The instructions also give you the option of sautéing the vegetables or simply adding them directly to the soup.
You can make the soup especially appealing if you grind the seasonings freshly (in a spice grinder or coffee mill), and use a good lemon (organic, if possible, or from your yard).
This is also a fine soup for getting to know the ingredients by tasting carefully before and after adding each one: tasting the lentils, then lentils with vegetables and garlic, then with cumin, with coriander, with lemon, and finally with parsley.
SERVES 4 TO 6 PEOPLE
1 cup lentils
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 teaspoon cumin seed, freshly ground
2 teaspoons coriander seed, freshly ground
Peel of ½ lemon
A few sprigs flat-leaved parsley,
minced for garnish
Sort through the lentils for stones or other debris. Place in a large pot, add water and bay leaf and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes, until the lentils are soft. The lentils could also be pressure cooked. Once they are soft, see what they taste like.
If you want the soup to be ready soon, sauté the onion in the olive oil for several minutes, until it is translucent. Then add the garlic, celery, and carrot. Sauté a couple more minutes, then add a bit of water. Cover, reduce the heat and cook until tender. Add to the cooked lentils. Season with the cumin, coriander, and lemon peel. Salt may be needed.
For a more leisurely soup, do not sauté; simply add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, cumin, and coriander to the lentils after they are tender. Continue cooking 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the lemon peel. Before serving, check the seasoning and garnish with the parsley.