I had some Aleppo pepper in the spice drawer, and I decided to use it in place of the cayenne. It’s not as spicy, but it brings a lot of fragrance, and it was a good match for the flavors of this soup. So if you’ve got it, use it.
I should note, too, that I forgot to stir the cilantro into the soup, and instead I used it as a garnish. I liked the look of it, though I might try stirring it in next time, since that’s what Melissa Clark intended.
In a large pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the broth, 2 cups water, the lentils, and the carrots. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Continue to cook until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. Using an immersion or regular blender, puree about half of the soup. It should still be somewhat chunky, not completely smooth. Reheat if necessary, then stir in the lemon juice and cilantro. Serve the soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted very lightly with cayenne, if desired.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings