Red lentil soup is golden and glorious. Photo
by Marcus Nilsson | Chobani.
What do you do after your start-up Greek-style yogurt brand becomes the number one brand in the country?
You continue to share your love of your homeland’s foods by opening a café.
Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya moved to New York from his native Turkey and couldn’t find thick yogurt as widely available as it was back home. The rest is yogurt history; now, hopefully, the other wonderful yogurt-based foods at his Chobani Soho café* will find as many fans.
The current café is a revision of the initial concept, which focused on yogurt with savory or sweet toppings†. They’re still on the menu, not joined by soups and simits—the bagel-like, sesame-topped street food of Turkey, available with a variety of fillings.
We’re a sucker for a simit—we had our first one just a year ago when a simit sandwich shop opened on our block.
Chobani Soho’s simits include “Bagel + Cream Cheese” (the cream cheese is actually labne, also spelled labneh, and called “Lebanese cream cheese”; Seasonal Preserves + Labne, Smoked Salmom + Herbed Labne; Spiced Chicken + Pomegranate Onion; and Tomato + Olive Tapenade.
We were invited to a media reception where we got to taste everything, all of it terrific. But for us, the star on the menu is the red lentil soup—easy to make, and so luscious and comforting that you’ll be making it again and again. Thanks to Chobani for sharing the recipe.
*The cafe is located at 150 Prince Street at West Broadway in New York City; 1.646.998.3800.
† SWEET CREATIONS: Blueberry + Power, Fig + Walnut, Fresh Fruit + Granola, Peanut Butter + Jelly, Pistachio + Chocolate, Toasted Coconut + Pineapple. SAVORY CREATIONS: Hummus + Za’atar, Mango + Avocado, Pomegranate + Caramelized Onion (our favorite!) Red Pepper Harissa + Feta, Zucchini Pesto + Tomato.
RECIPE: CHOBANI RED LENTIL SOUP
Red lentils (which range in color from yellow to orange to red) are sweeter than the green lentils typically used in American lentil soup, and the brown lentils used elsewhere.
3 cups lentils
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onions
1-1/2 tablespoon salt
Pinch Aleppo pepper‡
4 quarts water
4 tablespoon butter
1 cup plain 2% Chobani Greek yogurt
‡A substitute for Aleppo pepper is 4 parts sweet paprika and 1 part cayenne. See the section below on Aleppo pepper.
1. PLACE lentils in a strainer and rinse under cold water.
2. COMBINE all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 25 minutes.
3. ADD yogurt. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.
4. COOL in an ice bath and then refrigerate. Reheat before serving. Blend with immersion blender after reheating to eliminate lumps and smooth out soup.
5. MAKE garnish: Melt ¼ pound butter in a small sauce pan until foaming. Add ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper and remove from heat. Drizzle ½ teaspoon (for an 8-ounce portion) or ¾ teaspoon (for a 12-ounce portion). Keep butter warm and garnish with a spoon of Aleppo pepper butter before serving.
Simit, the “Turkish bagel,” ready to meet thick labne. Photo by Marcus Nilsson | Chobani.
WHAT IS ALEPPO PEPPER?
Also called halab pepper, halaby pepper, Near Eastern pepper and Syrian red pepper flakes, Aleppo pepper hales from Turkey and northern Syria. The town of Aleppo, a famous food mecca, is located in Syria near the Turkish border.
Aleppo pepper is used to add heat and pungency to Middle Eastern dishes. It is not a berry, like peppercorns, but a moderately hot red chile that is sun-dried, seeded and crushed. (Ever since someone in the crew of Christopher Columbus came across a chile in the New World and called it “pepper,” the confusion has endured. Here’s the scoop on pepper, here’s the story on chiles.)
The Aleppo chile’s high oil content provides a deep, rich aroma, somewhere between coffee and smoke; it has been compared to the ancho chile. It has fruity notes with mild, cumin-like undertones. It can be compared to—but is much more flavorful, complex, and less harsh than—that generic pizza staple, crushed red pepper.
USES FOR ALEPPO PEPPER
The moderate heat of Aleppo pepper is used:
With proteins: fish stews, roast chicken, grilled meats (including kabobs)
In veggie dishes: rice pilaf, simmered beans and lentils, to add kick to green salads (it’s delicious with yogurt and cucumbers or melon and mint salad)
As an attractive red garnish: on deviled eggs (or with any eggs), on potato, chicken, tuna and pasta salads
In any Mediterranean dish: tagines and couscous, for example
In classic American dishes: chili, pizza, soup, stews
As an everyday seasoning: add the flakes to olive oil to infuse for a vinaigrette, marinade, rub or for sautéing
If you can’t find Aleppo pepper locally, you can buy it online. When you empty your jar of crushed red pepper flakes, replace it with Aleppo.