Lentil & Red Pepper Soup
1 cup lentils
1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig, finely chopped (including stem)
1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/2 California bay leaf
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
24 whole black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced carrot
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Simmer lentils with parsley, bay leaf, broth, and water in a 4-quart saucepan, uncovered, until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
While lentils are cooking, coarsely grind peppercorns with cumin using a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee/spice grinder. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook bell pepper, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add spices and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and remaining 3 tablespoons oil and cook, stirring, until carrot is tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in lentil mixture and discard bay leaf.
Purée 1 cup soup in a blender until smooth. Stir purée into remaining soup and reheat over moderate heat, stirring. Season soup with salt and pepper. If soup seems too thick, thin with water to desired consistency.